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Skilled Worker Shortage: Programs That Are Making a Difference

The construction industry is in the midst of a skilled workers shortage across all lines of work. It affects design and construction professionals along with trade craftsman.

Skilled workers have left the industry as a result of the economic downturn, an aging workforce, and insufficient pipeline of younger workers. The overall economy masked the shortage since there was less work.

Now that we are back in a growth mode, the shortage is more evident as people switch companies for better opportunities and increased compensation – whether it is design and construction professionals or trade craftsman.

Creating Construction Opportunities for Students

There are a variety of programs available trying to make a difference. Two programs I am involved with in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area are ABC Schools to Careers and The ACE Mentor Program.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), our local Raleigh Durham Chapter, created the ABC Carolinas Schools to Careers committee. The committee teamed local general contractors and subcontractors with local Wake County high schools to serve as mentors and increase awareness and promote interest in construction-related careers.

This will be an ongoing partnership between the contractors and high schools to continually educate students about the construction industry.

As part of the partnership with local high schools, they hosted an annual shed building competition. The Students’ Hands-on Experience Day (S.H.E.D) allowed high school drafting and carpentry students to compete in a shed design and building competition.

The drafting competition consisted of creating framing plans and exterior elevations for a 8’0"x11’6" shed. A panel of local architects judged the drafting competition and determined the design winner. The design winners were awarded laptops capable of supporting their school’s drafting software.

Following the S.H.E.D design competition, high school carpentry students competed over a 2-day period to build the winning design. The general contractor and subcontractor team partners were responsible for mentoring their high school teams prior to and throughout the build, but did not assist in the actual build. Mentoring consisted of educating students about safety, quality, planning, communication, and scheduling. The S.H.E.D building competition was judged by local building inspectors and safety officers from various construction companies.

Supporting Programs Following the Competition

Completed sheds were auctioned off and the money was used to support the efforts of the ABC Carolinas Schools to Careers committee, and a scholarship was set up for students to attend trade, vocational, or construction-related curriculums.

The S.H.E.D competition winning schools were awarded new power and hand tools donated by sponsors. Aside from drafting and carpentry classes, local high school media students helped design a website for ABC Carolinas Schools to Careers and the S.H.E.D competition, in addition to filming the build competition.

The website served as an additional resource to educate students, parents, and teachers about various career opportunities across the construction industry.

The committee determined there is also a significant need for materials in classrooms. To help alleviate this problem, our outreach efforts will include donating unused or leftover construction materials and related resources to vocational and shop programs in our local schools.

Looking to the Future

The ACE Mentor Program is working hard to make sure there will be enough architects and construction managers to fill the needs in the future. The national program was founded in 1995 as an innovative way of attracting students – particularly minorities, women, and low-income populations – into careers in the architecture, construction, and engineering industry.

ACE’s mission is to inform and excite high school students about career opportunities in architecture, construction, and engineering, encourage students to pursue secondary and post-secondary education that will prepare them for careers in the integrated construction industry, and support the development of basic and technical skills through mentoring relationships.

High school students in the Raleigh/Durham area participate in weekly meetings as part of the ACE program, and the student teams work directly with professionals from leading area firms who volunteer their time. They mentor the teams as they design hypothetical projects, tour local construction sites, and visit architectural, engineering, and construction offices.

Students in the ACE program typically work closely with their mentors on projects that provide hands-on experience in solving the types of design, engineering and construction challenges industry professionals confront every day. The teams often learn how to use advanced computerized tools such as AutoCAD, while special exercises and activities illustrate the industry’s demand for young people skilled in math, physics, economics, art, and other disciplines.

The ACE Mentor Program informs students about career opportunities in architecture, construction, and engineering.

Promoting Our Industry

We can no longer put our heads in the sand; it is up to all of us to make a difference. Every day is an opportunity to promote our industry.

Wherever you may be, there is an opportunity to tell our story. It could be with family and friends, the local elementary, middle and high school, or the local community college or 4 year school. It could be someone making a career change looking for more fulfilling work. These are all opportunities to share the many rewarding experiences as we build a better world for us and our children.

Trends are always changing in the construction industry. Stay up-to-date by downloading the 2018 Construction Forecast Report

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