When I Grow Up I Want to Be…

During these years, when a young person is starting to find his or her way, parents and educators need to expose these inquisitive minds to the realm of possibilities and avenues to get there. Many adults presume that a four-year college degree is the only way to go, leading us to become primarily a service-oriented society. I, myself, am a product of that belief. However, during the most recent recession, those with college degrees faced higher levels of unemployment than in the previous 20 years.

The recession also took its toll on jobs in construction. Despite that, forces at work still make this industry an attractive option. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Career Guide to Industries, 2010-2011 edition, the number of wage and salary jobs in construction is expected to grow 19 percent through 2018, compared with 11 percent projected for all other industries. The report states: “Job opportunities are expected to be good, especially for experienced and skilled construction trades workers, because of the need to replace the large number of workers anticipated to leave these occupations over the next decade.”

The beauty of a construction career is that there is more than one way to get there. Certainly bachelor’s degrees in construction science, construction management, and engineering lead to management-level careers. But it’s also possible to get there if formal instruction begins at the local technical or trade school, through an apprenticeship, or an employer-provided training program.

“Our country needs people who go to trade schools. We’re running out of people like machinists, mechanics, and technicians because the people who are doing [those] jobs are retiring,” Melanie Holmes, vice president of North American corporate affairs for Manpower, a worldwide employment services company, said in a 2009 msnbc.com article by Jenny Lynn Zappala.

I recently spoke with Diane Greene, executive director of the Build Your Future Campaign, a grassroots approach to construction workforce forecasting and development led by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and the Construction Workforce Development Center. Greene says the organization’s biggest challenge is reaching parents and educators in the general population, outside of construction.

BYF will hold its eighth annual Careers in Construction Week Oct. 29-Nov. 2, 2012. The event, designed to increase public awareness of the hard work and contributions of craft professionals, encourages students to pursue careers in construction. Schools and contractors can partner locally to host construction career events during this week. A variety of resources are available at www.byf.org, including sample proclamation requests to send to your state governor, career path flow charts, and lists of average salaries.

Remember, boys and girls both need this message.

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