Not long ago, Michigan families encouraged their kids to get into the high-growth construction industry. Over time, interest in blue-collar jobs diminished as white-collar jobs skyrocketed. Today, the tide has turned reversing a decades-long trend in the U.S. jobs market.
Companies are now having a more difficult time finding blue-collar workers than white-collar workers, according to The Conference Board, which forecast that growing blue-collar labor shortages will continue in 2019 and beyond, particularly in construction.
The state of Michigan is in an ideal position, according to Conference Board experts who say that U.S. companies will relocate to areas that have a critical mass of blue-collar workers.
Statistics buoy state efforts to accelerate its construction trades programs. The demand is great, according to multiple industry studies that report the demand for construction workers retiring in record numbers is outpacing the number of new recruits.
In Michigan alone, more than 47,000 professional trades jobs are projected to open across the state through 2026, according to Michigan’s Talent and Economic Development (TED) department. TED recently hosted more than 3,800 students from 100 schools to experience first-hand the vast pipeline of opportunities in construction industry during career exploration event.
Coined Michigan Construction Career Days, the state’s annual career exploration open house seeks to attract Michigan middle and high school students in activities aimed at sparking their interest in pursuing lucrative careers in the construction industry. The 2019 Career Days were held at the Operating Engineers 324 Construction Career Center in Howell with 50 companies and exhibitors represented.
Participating students experienced an up-close blend of hands-on activities including heavy equipment operation under the guidance of industry professionals from all sectors and learned about training and education pathways that lead to these high-wage careers, according to Stephanie Beckhorn, Acting Director of Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan.
But TED cannot go at alone, according to the director, who says the state needs support from educational institutions, the business community and other stakeholders to alleviate barriers to address the skills gap in Michigan.
“Career exploration offers an innovative opportunity to educate students about the many viable career options in Professional Trades and change their perception of the construction industry,” says Beckhorn.
“It is important that we inspire and celebrate students along their educational journey to ensure they have a pathway that leads to a rewarding and lucrative career, and ultimately retains the talent companies desperately need to fill jobs,” says Beckhorn
Many Professional Trades are becoming more technology driven, and yet, there’s a common stereotype that skilled labor is a dirty job. Individuals in these careers are earning 45 percent more than other occupations and many careers are available with little to no student debt. With more than 545,000 Professional Trades openings across the state through 2026, career exploration plays a key role in closing the talent gap by connecting young talent to the careers in the Great Lakes State.
“I always tell students, ‘If you like working with your hands or using advanced technology a construction job might be a good fit for you,’” Lee Graham, Executive Director of Operating Engineers 324 said. “The construction industry offers a wide-range of career paths for students including operating engineers, millwrights, carpenters, plumbers and pipefitters, electrical power-line installers and repairers, engineers and several others. Starting their exploration early and allowing them to see the work first-hand will only help them decide if an apprenticeship or Professional Trade is a possibility.”
Michigan’s Professional Trades campaign, Going PRO, focuses on highlighting the most in-demand career fields, while elevating the perception of these high-tech, highly-skilled jobs, and shows the education and training requirement to get started.
“This is my second year at Construction Career Days, but I still learned a lot about the construction industry, even some things that weren’t taught in my career and technical education classes,” said Jeffery Stone, 18, senior at Deckerville High School and future C.A. Hull Contractors, Inc. employee. “Career Days is a great opportunity to explore more about the industry or find a career path for after high school – like me.”
Additional information about Michigan Construction Career Days and how to participate in 2020 can be found at MichiganCCD.com.
Learn more about Professional Trades and the construction industry career opportunities at Going-PRO.com.
Lead image courtesy of Operating Engineers