Written by Joshua Reap, President and CEO of Associated Builders & Contractors New Hampshire/Vermont Chapter
Our nation was literally built by hard-working construction workers. On Labor Day we continue the decades-long tradition of honoring the American worker, especially those in the trades. This year we also recognize that the American hardhat is an endangered species.
For a generation there’s been talk about the craft worker shortage because fewer and fewer people choose to enter the trades. What was once a concern for dwindling career interest is now a crisis because the average age of today’s skilled tradesperson is 52 years old and only growing grayer. There are a multitude of reasons for that, the most recognized being that as a society we have prioritized college readiness instead of career readiness. Fortunately, there is a renaissance in education going on and it’s occurring right here in New Hampshire.
We are excited to announce this Labor Day the initiative called “I Build NH”. This industry-driven collaborative delivers information about in-demand careers for jobseekers as well as curriculum and video to use in the classroom. The content is presented by Granite State craftspeople in the field, so there is a chance someone reading this column may know one of the hosts of this new series or recognize their own community.
According to a survey done by Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), more than 80 percent of builders report they are having trouble finding appropriately skilled labor. “I Build NH” is a direct response to that challenge. This is a first in the nation partnership between contractors, NHPBS, educators and government, to address the systemic challenges we face helping people learn about the great construction career opportunities that exist in our community.
The “I Build NH '' program brings the trades right into schools with turn-key curriculum teachers can use to apply everyday lessons involving geometry, algebra, various sciences, history and technology. In a pandemic altered learning environment, this is a perfect tool to use virtually or in the classroom. The material is a high-quality production crafted by NHPBS featuring rich educational content from New Hampshire educators.
Americans have found fulfilling careers in construction for generations, and an aging workforce provides a lot of opportunity for the next generation of craft professionals. As an industry with an earn-while-you-learn education model, we provide a pathway for our workers to constantly hone their skills, advance their careers and help build a better tomorrow. Construction is among the few industries where someone can enter the industry as an apprentice or trainee and be paid to further their career, all without accruing student loan debt.
ABC members are working hard to train the nation’s future skilled workforce. In fact, ABC contractors spend $1.3 billion annually on workforce development, training hundreds of thousands of construction industry professionals each year. The need for skilled construction workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of all other industries.
A recent survey found construction professionals are the happiest employees in the workforce. Combined with the knowledge that there are jobs needing to be filled today, this is all good news for the adult jobseeker and is the perfect opportunity to start something new.
The demand for skilled construction workers is only going to grow. A federal infrastructure spending plan is likely to pass in Congress, so ready and able workers are going to be in even more demand. We’re going to build more highways, bridges, schools and other long-lasting public works that will last for another century. The only question for Granite Staters is: Are you ready to build the next generation of great works?