The construction industry is facing an estimated skills shortage of 1 million craft professionals by 2023. Besides new jobs needed, such as for rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure, the industry is also projected to see 40% of the workforce leave as the baby boomers retire. At the time the industry needs them most, it is losing its highly qualified, seasoned workers.
What does this mean for veterans or transitioning military members? It’s the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunities in the construction industry. Veterans can utilize the skills they’ve already earned by getting a head start in a career that offers lucrative wages, career advancement and more.
Here are three reasons why veterans should choose a career in construction:
1. Your skills are already the perfect match for the industry.
Dependability, dedication, problem-solving are just a few of the skills that translate well into construction. Many craft-specific skills have been learned as well and will set them up for success in a new career. The challenge of transition can be difficult, especially with civilian terminology in skill levels and jobs titles varying from those used in the military.
Construction offers tools to help make the transition as easy as possible. One example is the Hard Hat Heroes credentialing portal — veterans get free credit and industry-recognized credentials by submitting their military operational specialty codes. Over 90 alignments, including rank-based, are offered for Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy.
Skills acquired in the military are easily transferred over to training programs, meaning that some students can easily achieve journeyman status in two years.
“Veterans have already received training and because of that, it speeds up their progress on the rest of the levels,” said Leslie “Tyke” Tenney, director of Virginia Technical Institute. “A veteran’s skills based on what they’ve done in the military means they have to do less in terms of training.”
2. Earn a salary that lets you live your best life.
A recent survey by NCCER found that half of the craft professions surveyed had an average salary range of more than $60,000, and that’s not including overtime, per diem, bonuses or other incentives.
Cameron Campbell choose to be a millwright and talks about having the finances to purchase a brand-new truck, house and even a property in Mississippi where he can deer hunt, because of his career choice. Josh Chavers specifically chose welding as his career because it has one of the top salaries in construction. At 28, he’s making a great living for him and his family.
And it’s not just men making lucrative salaries — the construction industry is ahead of the game when it comes to equal pay for women. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that women, on average, earn 100.8 percent of what a man earns in the construction industry, compared to the U.S. average of 81.8 percent. The concentration on hard skills in the industry helps support equality regardless of gender.
Holly Thomas is just one example of a woman earning top dollar. She entered the industry as a welder making about $55,000 a year starting salary. In 11 years, that amount has more than tripled as her career has progressed.
3. Climb the ladder as far as you want.
In construction, there are no limits to career progression.
Sean Ray served in the Navy directly out of high school as a sonar technician. From there, he joined the construction industry as a pipefitter’s helper and moved up as a journeyman pipefitter, foreman and quality control. He then continued on the management side as a superintendent, construction manager, corporate quality manager and operations manager. Now as the director of craft workforce development at Sundt Construction, Ray recognizes that his military background aligned quite well with the construction industry.
Boyd Worsham started as a carpenter apprentice and rose to president of an international company. Worsham worked his way up to become a journeyman carpenter, carpenter foreman, assistant superintendent, superintendent and finally the vice president of construction support for The Haskell Company, a leader in design-build project delivery. Now currently the president of NCCER, he shows that career progression is based on what you put into it.
Stories like Ray and Worsham’s are abundant in the industry. The enterprising spirit of construction gives you the opportunity to determine how far you go.
When considering future career options, think about churches, schools, stadiums – and that you could be building the places where we spend time with family and friends. Imagine driving down the road in 10 years and pointing out a hospital to your child while saying, I helped build that.
Beyond the pride of contributing to the built environment, beyond the job demand that provides so many opportunities, beyond the lucrative salaries and career progression available, happiness should be part of career choices. And, not by coincidence, craft professionals were found to be the happiest employees in a 2015 Best Industry Ranking Report published by TINYpulse.
NCCER salutes and thanks our U.S. veterans for their service. You’ve helped defend America, now help build it.
Portions of this article were posted on Defense Media Network in October, 2019.