There is no question that there are fewer young people choosing construction as a career path. In fact, the Construction Labor Market Analyzer (CLMA) reports a decrease from 13.9% to 9.4% in those under the age of 25 working in the construction industry in 2020. Generation Z, those born roughly between 1997-2012, are expected to make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025.
Yet, while the average share of under 25-year-olds for all industries is 11.6%, construction is lagging behind at 9.4%.
One reason for the decline in the younger generations choosing to work in the trades is the allure of the four-year degree as being seen as the only path to a successful career. The university route has traditionally been portrayed as the best way for students to ‘make something of themselves.’
With student debt reaching 1.7 trillion dollars – second only to mortgages – nearly half of Gen Zers say that their biggest financial concern is student debt. Due to the rising cost of a college degree, 64% of this demographic are reconsidering an advanced degree.
The research behind what makes Gen Z tick solidly places construction as an industry of choice for them – financial security and technology being two areas of importance in their career choices.
Raised around financial insecurity, Gen Z are driven to succeed and are less apt to go into debt for a college degree. As they are realistic and future-focused, stability and career advancement are key components for this demographic in their job search. With 40% of craft professionals estimated to retire within the next 10 years, career advancement will be certain as seasoned professionals retire and supervisory roles need to be filled.
As the world’s first technology natives, this generation expects to be working with cutting-edge technology. A survey by Dell Technologies found that 91% of students surveyed say that technology would influence their job choice when faced with similar offers.
Gen Z are confident in their digital skills and will help drive adaption and implementation as the industry steadily embraces new technologies. In fact, venture capital investment in construction technology has far exceeded venture capital investment in any other space – there was $25 billion invested into engineering and construction technology alone from 2014 to 2019 – demonstrating that technology changes are coming to the job site.
With technology advancements and successful career paths, why aren’t more Gen Z-ers choosing a construction career path? One likely reason for the disconnect is a lack of awareness. Young people aren’t choosing construction because they don’t know about the benefits that the industry provides. It’s critical to share the independence, skills, and opportunities that a career in construction provides.
Do your part to get the message out!
To start getting the message out, consider getting your company engaged in these four ways:
One: Take the Careers in Construction Pledge
October is Careers in Construction Month, which is a nationwide campaign designed 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, Build Your Future (BYF) is encouraging industry representatives and educators to create meaningful connections.
Sign the pledge that your company will participate in classroom engagements 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. So far, over 90 companies and organizations have pledged to make connections between education and industry this October – take the pledge today.
Two: Volunteer on local school advisory councils.
Your local school has an advisory council – 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, in Garrett, Indiana, for example, has a Career Development Program and 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.
Three: 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. Gen Z-ers are looking for authentic experiences and the chance to speak with somebody successful in the industry gives students insight into construction. 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.
Four: Share your story and what construction has done for you.
BYF is always searching for inspiring stories to tell. The success stories we share range from apprentices to craft professionals to CEOs and help young people learn firsthand that construction offers viable, successful career paths. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you got into the industry, what you find most satisfying, and what you 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 https://byf.org to see other ways you can get involved.
About the author: Rachel Burris is the communications manager at NCCER. She has over seven years of experience in communications and public relations, including writing and editing content for emails, social media, press releases, blogs, and articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Florida and a Master of Business Administration degree from Webster University.
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 www.nccer.org 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 byf.org.