What if I told you there was a six-figure job available, just waiting for someone to come fill it. And what if there were thousands more just like it, with nobody qualified to fill those positions either.
That’s the odd situation the U.S. construction industry finds itself in heading into 2018. There are jobs available nearly everywhere across the country, but there are not enough qualified people to fill these lucrative positions, according to reports.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 75 percent of contractors in the U.S. are looking to add more employees in 2018. The increase, according to an article on Fox Business, is due to the tax reform bill signed in December 2017, the government cutting red tape, a strong economy and continued favorable construction sector trends.
On the flip side, 50 percent of construction companies reported having trouble finding both salaried and skilled workers for all of those jobs. This is happening even though 60 percent of construction companies reported to the AGC they’ve increased base pay to recruit or retain workers and 36 percent provided bonuses and incentives as well.
“The general population doesn’t know how rewarding and profitable [construction jobs can be],” Stephen Mulva, director of the Construction Industry Institute, said in the Fox Business article. “Six-figure salaries are not uncommon.”
Is it any wonder why the general population doesn’t know how lucrative working in construction can be? For the past 40 years, we’ve let ivory-tower intellectuals tell our youth that skilled labor was beneath them. Two years ago (to the day, in fact) I wrote about this exact topic from a different angle.
Mike Rowe still fights for skilled labor
Back in January 2016, I was floored by a quote from a presidential candidate leading into the primaries who Tweeted, “At the end of the day, providing a path to go to college is a helluva lot cheaper than putting people on a path to jail.”
That, my friends, is 119 characters worth of nonsense. I ran out of fingers and toes in less than 30 seconds counting adults I know who never went to college and have never been in jail.
It was Mike Rowe who wrote about this quote and how disgusted he was by it. Rowe, the longtime host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel, has spent the last few years championing skilled labor with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, tirelessly working to end the stigma placed upon these honorable jobs.
Rowe had his own experience with being told anything less than a four-year school was for losers. Despite telling his high school guidance counselor his family didn’t have the money to send him to a university, Rowe was advised he would be led to “a life of wrench-turning” if he went to community college. (Spoiler alert: Mr. Dunbar was wrong about Rowe.)
Apparently his guidance counselor and the presidential candidate had the same opinion of “wrench-turners.” To them, it seemed a fate worse than death to end up anything else than a piece of sheepskin after you leave high school.
This attitude is exactly why these six-figure jobs are going unfilled, especially with so many college graduates sitting out there with a diploma, massive debt and no job. Tell those 20-somethings they could find a job in construction and many will parrot the ivory-tower belief.
The irony is the construction industry was never just about “wrench-turners.” College graduates could have chosen construction as a focus, and would be enjoying those six-figure salaries right now.
Sage weighs in on technology in the construction industry
Most people realize a house, library or skyscraper doesn’t get built by construction workers just showing up and working. It starts with a construction company (from a one-man licensed contractor to a multi-national company) winning a bid to start the project.
There’s work involved before that moment: conceptual drawings, estimating, managing capital and bid management to name a few. Once the bid is won, contracts must be coordinated and signed, materials must be purchased, workers must be paid and the project must be managed to come in on time and on budget.
Even though I listed only a small portion of the jobs surrounding a construction project, none of those involve “wrench-turners.” Although a payroll clerk may not earn a six-figure salary like a skilled laborer, the construction worker won’t get paid if there’s nobody managing the finances — if there’s a construction worker available to fill that job in the first place.
All of these roles need to be filled, too. We’re talking accountants, clerks, business managers, estimators, drafters, architects and many other “white-collar” jobs. And because the six-figure “blue-collar” jobs aren’t being filled, more and more construction jobs are relying on technology, according to Sage Construction and Real Estate Vice President and General Manager John Witty.
According to Sage, 50 percent of firms they polled said they spend 1 percent or more of revenue on information technology, up from 47 percent the previous year. Also, 43 percent of the respondents said they will increase their IT investments this year.
“Increased competition for projects is driving contractors to advance their use of not only building information modeling, but (also) cloud technologies,” Witty said. “This is particularly evident in the use of cloud-based mobile solutions on the job sites, where contractors are using mobile software for daily field reports, field access to customer job information, employee time tracking and approval and the sharing of drawings, photos and documents.”
That’s right: Now your average blue-collar construction worker (you know, the one with the six-figure salary) will use information technology in The New Now of the construction industry. And again, these jobs are available for the taking for anyone willing to attend a vocational school and/or train as an apprentice.
But then again, so are all the “non-loser” jobs in construction, which, for the most part, don’t make six figures. Many of these degree-holding college graduates have jobs they can easily attain if they wish to go into a lucrative business.
How many other STEM fields have such a negative connotation — and have so many job openings? The construction industry and people like Mike Rowe must continue to champion the cause of honest, hard-working careers if they ever want this stigma to disappear.