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States Act to Fill Construction Jobs

As the number of construction jobs continues to rise, some states are investing in the promotion of career and technical schooling

Brian Young's picture
Oct 24, 2017

Across the country construction is booming, 35 states reported an increase from last year in construction jobs. 26 of those states also reported increases just in the last month. While this boom is for current workers, the industry is worried that they can’t keep up the pace due to a lack of new construction workers entering into the trades.

During the 2008 recession, 2.3 million construction jobs were lost. In the last decade, the industry has been slowly crawling back, but many of those skilled tradesmen left to find other work. According to some estimates, this has left the construction industry 1.3 million jobs short. This will be made even worse if Trump’s proposed infrastructure funding ever gets approved by Congress.

The labor problem is further exacerbated by the fact that millennials are not entering into the construction trades at the same levels of previous generations. Schools are preparing students for college instead of steering them into the trades. With the millennial generation bogged down by mounting student loan debt and Generation Z beginning to enter college, states have begun to take action to change students’ impressions of the construction trades.

In Colorado, the state passed a law earlier this year mandating high school counselors to talk to students about jobs in skilled labor. This came after a record 125,000 high school and 20,000 middle schoolers enrolled in career and technical education courses. California also announced that they will spend $6 million on a public relations campaign to boost vocational training’s image and another $200 million to improve vocational training.  According to the US Department of Education, those who pursue technical education are actually slightly more likely to be employed than those with a college degree and most of these jobs pay middle class wages.

With states now acting on promoting technical skilled jobs, it is more important than ever to create strong apprenticeship programs. Some local governments have already begun this by requiring apprenticeship programs to report data like graduation rates before they could bid for public contracts. With more and more states promoting technical training and apprenticeship programs, they need to begin to hold these programs to the tough standards that they hold their state colleges and universities too, rather than weakening the standards.

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