An unabridged version of this blog was originally posted on Masonry Magazine.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we were taught that it is more desirable to go to college, earn a degree and sit in cubicles for 40 hours a week than it is to build and fix things with our hands. Fortunately for many of us, there are still careers where builders thrive and earn more money than their cubicle counterparts and NCCER’s Build Your Future (BYF) initiative is committed to sharing the many opportunities for successful, lucrative careers in the construction industry with students across the country. By taking a collaborative, grassroots approach to industry recruitment and image enhancement strategies, BYF is redefining the way the construction industry builds its talent pipeline. While great pay, the ability to travel the world and opportunities for advancement are all highly valued by the next generation of workers, few of them realize that a career as a craft professional meets all of the criteria. As part of the initiative, BYF developed three goals:
  1. Make career and technical education (CTE) a priority in secondary schools.
  2. Shift the public’s negative perception about careers in the construction industry to reflect the wide range of professions available.
  3. Provide a path from ambition, to training, to job placement as a craft professional.
In order to reach and interact with as many students as possible, BYF travels to numerous career days sharing the success stories of current craft professionals and encouraging educators and students to change the way they think about careers in the construction industry. In 2016, BYF attended 14 career days and interacted with 20,000 students, parents and teachers spreading the message about construction’s rewarding career opportunities. Surveys from 3,500 students showed that:
  • 55% viewed construction careers more favorably after the event
  • 85% had an increased interest in learning about careers in construction
  • 44% of students are pursuing a career in construction after attending the event
BYF provides numerous resources to educators, organizations and contractors looking to do their own recruiting. Items include bookmarks, posters and sample packs along with guides to plan career days and activities to celebrate Careers in Construction Month. One of the most notable and highly sought after resources is the trading card decks. With 32 different cards featuring craft professionals and various managerial positions, real men and women in the industry are featured along with their craft’s salary and educational requirements. Not only does this allow individuals to envision themselves underneath the hard hat, but it also encourages them to think of the many possibilities beyond a costly college degree and outlines the steps to get there. Overall, BYF is committed to revamping the image of the construction industry and providing students, educators and contractors with the resources necessary to pursue careers as craft professionals. Whether an individual is a self-starter, pioneer, take-charge leader or creative thinker, the construction industry offers opportunities and career paths to fit each and every personality. The information simply needs to be shared with the masses and BYF is that platform.


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  1. Bruce Hartranft | Nov 06, 2017

    Rebuilding the Skilled Trades in America is going to have to include changing the focus of High School College Counselors (title should be "Career Counselor").  Currently most counselors are measured on how many students they get admitted to college and how many scholarship dollars they have brought in scholarships.  As a result, counselors push virtually all students to take college-prep courses, apply to colleges, and seek out college scholarships.  Conversely, many colleges have responded with free trips for high-potential counselors to visit their campuses and have raised tuitions so they can offer more scholarships.  Ugh!

    In Europe, Apprenticeship in the Skilled Trades is viewed as a highly regarded career education track, while in America it is often where counselors point students who can't make it into, or pay for, college.  The roles of these two educational channels should be at least equal. 

    A better measurement of a counselor's performance would be a '5-Year Results' evaluation.  Go to the graduates' first Class Reunion (typically 5 years after graduation), and survey "Where are you career-wise, income-wise, debt-wise, and overall job satisfaction-wise".  According to the National Center for Education Statistics less than 40% finish a B.A. in four years (less than 35% finish in four years at public institutions)!  Payment of Student Loans begins if the student falls below 'Full Time', drops-out, or 6 months after graduations. What a collosal waste of time and money, they could have been earning a good income while learning a skill.

    Do the math....   I have!  Apprenticeship in the Skilled Trades virtually always show superior net-incomes as compared to going to college for the first 15-20 years in the working world.  The high cost, debt, and over-supply of college grads verses the lower cost, higher net income, and national shortage of skilled trades show up quickly (and substantially) when you do a financial spread sheet.

    If you would like a copy of the first "Apprenticeship -vs- CollegeDEBTship" spreadsheet, just send me an email.  It's a simple fill-in-the-blanks Excel spreadsheet any student or counselor can run in less than time than it took to read these thoughts. It's a pretty good Gen I financial tool (I'm working on a Gen II spreadsheet right now). Email:   Please include "Send A-vs-C" in the Subject Line.  No charge, no strings, just a donation to you and NCCER - Keep up the good work!

  2. Olan J. Villegas | Nov 04, 2017
    Hi, I have shared this great article with our Company Chief (President), and by the way, we are one of the Top Construction company here in the Philippines and I think BYF program would greatly help improve our recruitment system. May I ask how we can make possible to avail the program here in our country?
  3. Tim Merchant | Nov 03, 2017
    Great article.  I teach NCCER Core and Carpentry at the Trinidad Correctional Facility in Trinidad, Colorado.  Is there anyone from NCCER in this state that could come and talk about BYF, or about the opportunities that are out there in the construction trades?

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    About NCCER

    NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.