The construction industry needs more workers. From the massive retirement of Baby Boomers and t to competition from other jobs that raised wages during the pandemic, the industry is struggling to find workers. According to an analysis released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the construction sector added 15,000 jobs in April while the sector’s unemployment rate fell to a record low for the month and the number of unfilled construction positions is close to a monthly high. The construction industry must proactively recruit young people to help replenish worker numbers. And the industry has some ideas.
At the end of 2022, AGC held its second annual National Construction Workforce Summit that brought together hundreds of professionals involved in workforce development, from construction firms, AGC of America chapters and construction education and training programs. The event included topical breakout sessions that allowed participants to share knowledge and generate ideas. AGC compiled the information and shared it in a report. One of those ideas covered in the report is to support career and technical education programs or CTE programs.
What are CTE Programs?
CTE programs are educational courses that prepare students for employment in current or emerging occupations. What’s more, CTE programs give students a foundation for working in construction. The industry can build on this foundation, getting more students on the construction career track. Supporting CTE programs in local schools requires dedication, persistence, collaboration, monetary investments and public understanding about the value and necessity of CTE education.
The summit identified three recurring themes related to CTE programs in every state:
- Limited funding
- Lack of support
- Disconnect between education and industry
Ideas to Support CTE Programs
Summit participants brainstormed and shared new ideas for supporting CTE programs.
Use Social Media
Creating and posting content on social media about the industry can help reach educators. Many social media platforms offer relatively low-cost opportunities to target content to specific audiences–including by location and profession, making it a great way to get in front of educators and counselors who influence their students’ career choices.
Align CTE Courses with Core Academic Requirements
AGC chapters are in a good position to work with state education officials to ensure that the content of career and technical courses, particularly those focusing on construction, align with core academic requirements. That means ensuring classes on basic carpentry include enough math concepts to offer core credits to students as an example. Not only will this make CTE programs more attractive to students, but it will also offer ways for non-traditional learners to earn credits on subjects where they might otherwise struggle.
Attend Educator Events
In addition to inviting educators to attend industry events, employers should also prioritize attending educator events, including state and local school board meetings. Getting involved as community representatives in local school parent/teacher organizations or school improvement programs and attending school functions will pay off with better connections with local schools and give the industry a ‘seat at the table’ when it comes to crafting school curriculums and influencing career counseling.
Utilize Teacher Externships
Companies should invest in teacher externships which are programs that pay teachers to spend time, typically during the summer, working at construction firms. This exposes the educator to the many career opportunities within the industry and helps build a stronger, working bond between schools and the industry.
Real World Examples
The attendees of the 2022 National Construction Workforce Summit shared some of the successful efforts they’ve used to support CTE programs in their areas.
- One AGC chapter created and implemented a MathLab curriculum for three schools. The program teaches relevant math content by using real life applications and satisfies core class math requirements. As a result of the program, more students are choosing a construction pathway in the high schools where the program is in place.
- Other participants reported success with finding ways to align educators and industry. For example, they are working together to use the same vocabulary to talk about construction opportunities in the same way. They are also creating collaborative groups of educators and industry representatives to structure educational programs that will provide relevant construction skills and expose more students to the career opportunities available in the industry. Others noted that educators in their region are making it a point to help CTE programs align with real world scenarios. Below are examples construction companies can share with their local educators.
- Some educators report they are moving away from ‘traditional’ classrooms. Instead, they are evolving programs so they are engaging and relevant, which requires continuous realignment to address ever-changing industry dynamics. This creates opportunities for the industry to get involved to help support more hands-on learning experiences for students. It also helps educators while providing students with greater exposure to construction career opportunities.
- Educators are establishing micro schools, essentially schools within a school to focus on specific pathways, including construction. These programs are formed through community evaluation, collaboration, and identified local needs. The structure of these micro schools is then designed based on student needs and is adjustable based on continuous evaluation. Success requires partnerships with industry and identifying trade experts/professionals to serve as teachers/student mentors, allowing the program to be affordable as schools don’t have to hire additional teachers. Industry participation ensures the most relevant content is being learned.
These are just a few of the ideas that were shared during the Summit and are included in the Construction Workforce Summit Report. Download the entire report to learn more about how the construction industry is helping to create the workforce of the future.