How to Share Construction Opportunities with Students – and Why You Should

“I grew up in a small town with little education about career opportunities outside of the typical mold of a four-year degree. Back in 2019, I drove through my hometown and stopped at a fast-food restaurant to find that three of my high school classmates worked there — 14 years post-high school graduation. It made me sad to realize that they probably didn’t know there were and are other options for them.   After that experience, I found a job posting for the Build Your Future Manager role and started working at NCCER in September 2019. Part of my focus is on helping the construction industry make connections with education, as well as recruiting and reaching people, with a large focus on students.   However, the part of my job that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that what I do impacts lives. It is my mission to empower students through information to find opportunities that can change their circumstances.” — Holly Mathis, Build Your Future Manager  We’ve all seen the stats about the workforce shortage in the construction industry:  • 53% of the seasoned workforce is expected to retire by 2036.   • Over half of construction firms are having a hard time filling both salaried and hourly craft positions.  • For more than seven straight years, construction skilled trades are the hardest roles to fill.   Let’s take a second to step back and think less about the effect on construction and more about the impact a job in the industry could have on somebody. For too long, construction careers have not been traditionally seen as a path to success. The university route is portrayed as the best way for students to ‘make something of themselves’ only for them to fall into massive debt getting a degree that may not be needed in the workforce. In fact, 25% of workers with student loan debt are employed out of their chosen field because of debt obligations.  As Holly’s story illustrated, young people can also fall into jobs that don’t give them much room to grow because they see that as the only option available.   We know that construction offers more — it teaches skills that are in high demand, it has high salaries and it provides satisfaction from jobs that have meaning. But how do we show students that there are more options available to them?  It’s up to you.   We’re not asking you to do this on your own. Build Your Future (BYF) is an initiative that aims to be the catalyst for recruiting the next generation of craft professionals. Powered by NCCER, BYF creates pathways that bridge the gap between curiosity and career placement.   As a grassroots effort, we work to equip industry representatives with the resources needed to reach students, families and educators and effectively promote careers in construction. With Gen Z expected to make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025, it’s important to start making those connections now.  Check out these four ways that you can get involved: Participate in Careers in Construction Month. Be a spokesperson at your local school. Volunteer on local school advisory councils. Share your story and what construction has done for you.   1. Take the Careers in Construction Pledge.  Careers in Construction Month, a nationwide campaign held every October to increase public awareness of construction careers, inspire the next generation of craft professionals and make an impact on the perceptions of a career in construction. This year, BYF is encouraging industry representatives and educators to create meaningful connections.   Sign the pledge that your company will participate in classroom engagements, either virtually or in-person, during the month of October. By doing so, you will be entered into a drawing for one of four $5,000 scholarships to be given to the secondary craft training program of your choice.   Currently over 70 companies and organizations have pledged to make connections between education and industry this October — take the pledge today. 2. Be a spokesperson at your local school.  BYF works with many companies that connect with their local schools and do presentations, career day visits and provide resources for educators and counselors. We always recommend having a craft professional attend these events — Gen Z, in particular, are looking for authentic experiences and who better to tell what it’s like working on the job site than you. Not only are you contributing to building a talent pipeline, but you’re inspiring the next generation to consider a career they may not have thought of.   3. Volunteer on local school advisory councils.  Your local school has an advisory council — or most likely several — and they’re looking for volunteers from the community. General councils come up with annual plans to improve education in vital areas of the school, while other councils are more specialized in areas such as career and technical education.  Garrett High School’s Career Development program credits a good portion of their success to local industry representatives sitting on their advisory board. Contact your local high school to see how you can contribute.   4. Share your story and what construction has done for you.  BYF is always on the lookout for inspiring stories to tell. Our success stories bridge from apprentice to journeyman to CEOs — students and young people want to hear it directly from the source that construction offers viable, successful career paths. Contact us at marketing@nccer.org to share how you got into the industry, what you find most satisfying and what you would recommend to the next generation.    Working with BYF, you can help make a difference — not just for the industry, but for the students and young people who aren’t aware of the world of opportunity that construction offers. Be a voice in your community about the benefits of construction and impact a student’s life.   Visit byf.org to see other ways you can get involved. 

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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is the communications manager at NCCER. She has over six years’ experience in communications and public relations, including writing...

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