PUBLISHED BY THE ASSOCIATION FOR
CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION
By Meghan McPhail
Building Opportunities in the Construction Industry
Since the economic recovery of the 2008 recession, jobs in the construction industry have skyrocketed from 2.5 million to 5.6 million in May 2016. More than half of these jobs were construction laborers (912,100), carpenters (676,980) and electricians (607,120), according to the U.S. Department of Labor (“Annual Mean,” 2017). But with an increase in job opportunity came, too, an increase in contractor failures due to individuals and firms not having the capacity and human resource to fulfill the jobs available. Employment of construction laborers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average of all occupations (“Construction Laborers,” 2017). This means higher wages for a smaller workforce. To help train a new generation of construction workers, companies are recognizing the benefits of a cultivated pipeline from the classroom to career. One such company, Contract Construction Inc., has partnered with South Carolina’s Berkeley County School District to offer on-thejob training to high school students in their career and technical education (CTE) construction programs.
Now is a critical time for educators at all levels to recognize that employers need employees with skill sets that conventional four-year degrees may not provide. For decades, our educational system has promoted four-year degrees as the path paved toward a career in a corner office that proclaims, “You have arrived!” But this approach is flawed. A report published by The Harvard Graduate School of Education states, “The ‘college-for-all’ rhetoric that has been so much a part of the current education reform movement needs to be broadened significantly to become a post high school credential for all” (Symonds, Schwartz, & Ferguson, 2011). Imagine this as a way to “build the corner office.”
Thinking (& Building) Outside the Box
For Greg Hughes, president of Contract Construction, Inc., the goal is simple. He says, “Our company sees there is a huge skills gap in the construction industry because even our sub-contractors have problems finding workers, which slows our projects. We began trying to think outside of our construction realm and get to the root of the real issue.” The Building Berkeley project was borne out of a mutually beneficial partnership between the South Carolina-based company, which specializes in the construction of education and athletic facilities, and its local school district; students gained skills and Contract Construction worked to fill its pipeline with qualified, experienced individuals. After learning about the district’s building construction program, Contract Construction seized an opportunity to help develop the talent pipeline in the