Next Generation of Construction Professionals

How is the construction industry managing workforce development for the future? That’s the topic Paul Beers of GCI Consultants discussed with guest Dr. Mittie Cannon on the Everything Building Envelope podcast.

Dr. Cannon is the manager of workforce development with Amec Foster Wheeler, a global organization that provides services to numerous operations in the public and private sector. She brought that expertise to Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) — the national trade industry association — when she served as the chair of the Workforce Development and Initiatives Committee. She remains involved with workforce development at ABC on the national and local Alabama Chapter level.

Changing the Conversation

At a time when a college education is widely accepted as necessary for achieving the American dream, the construction industry needs to communicate the benefits of a career in the construction field. Reaching out to students on the verge of making life decisions with a fresh narrative about their choices is a cornerstone of ABC’s workforce development strategy.

Entering the workforce without carrying the large debt load of a college education is a motivating factor, but the younger generation is also attracted to the lifestyle that a career in the industry offers. Obtaining a skill set that travels is a significant selling point for taking on a trade, from their point of view. Another attraction is the chance to play an active role in building projects.

The new narrative also stresses opportunities for advancement, especially for ambitious workers. The construction industry is particularly responsive to the high-achiever with proven ability. An inclusive attitude, backed up with professional development opportunities, creates the potential for workers to move beyond the boundaries of a given trade, and that’s a significant message for students and their parents.

Terms of Engagement

Parents have a huge influence on this generation’s decisions; educating them about the multiple career paths that exist in the construction industry is a crucial step in engaging the young person’s interest.

Participating in various career-related events, such as workshops, careers in construction days and programs for girls offer opportunities to expand students’ familiarity with the construction industry. Dr. Cannon notes that events with strong parental involvement are especially productive.

Education

More than 20 years ago, industry and academic leaders came together to form the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) in order to create standardized training and credentialing programs for the industry, delivered through post-secondary training and apprenticeship programs. The NCCER credential is a stamp of approval for workers entering the industry, indicating they’ve met practical and written standards for their trade.

Students headed for professions should know that the construction industry also needs attorneys, accountants and medical practitioners. With the variety of pathways to the construction industry for the young generation, strengthening the connection between industry and the education system would be mutually beneficial for both. Steps toward that have been initiated in activities with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), but further involvement with curriculum development is also desirable.

Companies can build on that training — and retain employees — by nurturing their development through mentorship programs and encouraging diversity and inclusion. Dr. Cannon sees these efforts as the key to establishing sustainable relationships between the industry and the next generation. She points to the example of young professional summits that bring employees at all different stages in their careers, from all over the country, together. These events are valuable networking events that help fire up the interest and ambition of young employees.

Listen to the entire discussion about workforce development at the Everything Building Envelope podcast, and while you’re there, subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss any of our discussions with experts in the industry.