By Nicole Needles, NCCER

Innovation comes in different forms. The development of technology, workforces, and policies are all part of what is propelling the construction industry forward. New ideas and talent coming into the industry have brought building information modeling (BIM), drones, and offsite construction, and there are still many more advancements that can be made. Organizations such as NCCER are striving to bring developments that will benefit and continue to assist the industry in its move toward the future.

Jennifer Wilkerson, Vice President of Innovation and Advancement at NCCER, oversees the innovation process within the organization and identifies and implements strategies, opportunities, and technologies that support the mission of NCCER. Her background encompasses both industry and education with 13 years as a high school English teacher and six years as the acting business manager at a welding and fabrication company that she and her husband founded.

Several exciting projects at NCCER were recently launched and more are in the works that will benefit the construction industry. One such project is Build Your Future’s CareerStarter, a career connection tool for individuals to easily find local training and entry-level jobs in the industry.

“We’re taking Build Your Future to the next level,” Wilkerson said. “We are taking people beyond career exploration and helping them match their interest to a craft area, connecting them with training and helping them get their first job in the industry. People know how to apply for college or a job online, but they don’t know how to get into the construction industry. We are taking the mystery out of that.”

Thanks to the sponsors of CareerStarter, this tool is a free resource for all users, making finding entry-level construction jobs and filling positions easier. It also provides a way for contractors to promote their companies and opportunities to the next generation of craft professionals.

Digital Credentials
In addition, NCCER is setting a new precedent for displaying construction skills and credentials. NCCER teamed up with Credly to provide digital credentials to all past and future NCCER credential holders. These badges make it easier for hiring managers, recruiters, and others to see exactly what skills an individual has. Likewise, craft professionals can post their badges to online job boards, email them to hiring managers, and display them at job sites.

“What we did with digital badges is we stopped talking in module descriptions and started talking in skills,” Wilkerson said. “Our content has always been organized in a modular, competency-based format, and now our credentials reflect that.”

These badges will meet the demands of a more on-the-go world, where training essentials and job tools are found on a cell phone or computer. Classrooms and construction sites are shifting daily, and digital badges cater to these shifts.

With the idea of empowering individuals to have their credentials at their fingertips and easy to share, NCCER also teamed up with CareerSafe, the largest provider of online OSHA 10-hour training. This partnership allows individuals to get affordable safety training and have their OSHA 10 credential represented in the NCCER Registry and by a digital badge.

Accelerated Training
Another area of innovation is the delivery of training. NCCER understands the need for accelerated credible training. They have been piloting augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to see which technologies can be incorporated into craft training with a few questions in mind: Is it affordable? Is it scalable? Does it lead to better skill and knowledge development?

To this end, NCCER worked with SENAR to pilot access to AR simulators as part of the Core 6e training experience. Instructors and trainees have access to five AR simulators aligned with two of the course modules in NCCERconnect. For VR, they teamed up with TransfrVR for a pilot to see how it can enhance the learning experience by engaging students. Both pilots are ongoing with the results to be released in the coming months.

Sometimes, the construction industry advances in unintended ways as well. Wilkerson pointed out that as difficult as COVID-19 has been for everyone, it inadvertently brought the importance of construction training education to light. There has never been a better time to get involved with tools like CareerStarter and connecting with school advisory boards among other things.

“It’s evident to everyone that we need more people in our industry,” Wilkerson said. “Schools and educators are starting to listen. This is the wave of the future; people need to have skills that help them get the careers that are in demand. I’m super excited with what’s going to happen over the next two years in the construction industry and with education and credentialing. I think NCCER is positioned to be the one that offers that advancement.”

Careers in construction and other industries requiring skills and credentials are becoming more widely accepted. The stage is set for recruiters and educators to actively inform the public about the lucrative and satisfying possibilities in the field of construction.

With career advancement opportunities, digital credentials, and increasing awareness of construction careers, the future of the industry is full of possibilities. The past few years have given innovators the opportunity to take a step back and re-examine what is really needed by craft professionals and new entrants. This has paved new paths and new ways of getting hired, displaying skills and so much more.

Nicole Needles is the Communications Coordinator at NCCER where she assists with the Breaking Ground Newsroom and other marketing efforts. She graduated in May 2020 from the University of Florida with her bachelor’s degree in journalism.

About NCCER – NCCER is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created by the construction industry to develop standardized curriculum and assessments with portable credentials and certifications for skilled craft professionals. NCCER provides a comprehensive workforce development system that includes accreditation, training, assessment, certification, and career development solutions for the construction and maintenance industries. For more information, visit or contact NCCER customer service at 888.622.3720.

About Build Your Future – Build Your Future (BYF) is NCCER’s national image enhancement and recruitment initiative for the construction industry. Its mission is to recruit the next generation of craft professionals by making career and technical education a priority in secondary schools, shifting negative public perception about careers in the construction industry and providing a path from ambition, to training, to job placement as a craft professional. BYF provides a number of resources to assist the industry, education, and military organizations in achieving these goals. For more information, visit