In March 2021 it was projected that construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed in 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The data also revealed that every $1 billion in extra construction spending generates an average of at least 5,700 construction jobs.
What are the opportunities for those considering construction as a career?
There are many high paying, secure opportunities to build a career in construction. Here are some of the best construction careers and the opportunities they offer.
- Managers are in very high demand and the average salary of a construction manager is $93,370.
- Construction managers will generally make the highest salary in the industry due to the responsibilities that are expected of them
- Typically, construction managers start off in an entry-level position in the construction field and move their way up. Many attend trade schools.
- Elevator Installation/ Repair
- The BLS (Bureau of Labor and Statics) has projected a 10 percent job growth in this area over a ten year period.
- The average wage for an elevator installer and repairer was $79,780 in May 2018, but salaries can vary depending on what industry an individual installer works in.
- Elevator installers start out as apprentices in a 4-year program designed to help them learn the trade.
- Projected to grow steadily over the next 10-years
- The average salary of an electrician is $55,190 a year, but the top 10 percent earned over $94,620, according to the report by the BLS.
- To become an electrician, some start off as apprentices while others go through a trade or technical school.
- The BLS predicts that demand for plumbers will rise by 14 percent in a ten-year timeframe.
- The average plumber makes $53,910 annually.
- A four to five-year apprenticeship is all that’s needed to become a plumber.
- Most states require a plumber to have a license to practice the trade with at least 2 years of on-the-job experience.
Sheet Metal Worker
- Sheet metal work is projected to grow about eight percent over 10 years.
- Sheet metal workers have some of the highest salaries across blue-collar industries, earning an average of $48,460. In 2018, the highest-earning 10 percent earned over $86,200.
- Sheet metal workers learn their trade in different technical and vocational programs that offer different courses and programs that teach welding and other sheet metal fabrication knowledge.
- A carpenter is one of the most versatile jobs in the construction industry and the growth projections vary greatly.
- The average salary of a carpenter is $46,590.
- There are two main paths to becoming a carpenter: through an apprenticeship with on-the-job training. Trade schools typically last two years and can be completed in-person or online.
- The BLS has projected a 9.6 percent growth in the equipment operator occupation between 2018 and 2028.
- The median salary for construction equipment operators is $46,990.
- There isn’t a single path to becoming a heavy equipment operator. Many workers learn how to operate equipment on the job. Others learn through an apprenticeship or through vocational schools.
- Masonry work will always be necessary. This is especially true as the population increases, thereby increasing the need for schools, hospitals and other necessary buildings.
- Brick and block masons can earn up to $50,950, cement and concrete masons average around $43,000 and stoneworkers will typically earn around $41,220.
- Entry-level masons can enter the field after high school, but they can also go through an apprenticeship program offered by a technical school, college or through a union.
- It’s a physically demanding job that requires a lot of patience and risk, but the demand for these trade workers is expected to grow faster than the average of other occupations.
- The average pay for a glazier is $43,550 with the highest-paid individuals earning $81,950 or a little under double the industry average.
- Entering an apprenticeship program is the most common way of becoming a glazier.
- U.S. News describes solar installers as the second-best construction job, the eighth-best construction job without the need for a college degree and in the top 100 jobs in the U.S.
- In 2017, solar installers earned an average of $42,680, with the top 10 percent of solar installers earned over $63,580
- All workers in this field need at least the equivalent of a high school diploma and receive one year of on the job training.
- Military veterans can also take advantage of the Solar Ready Vets program that’s funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Where Will the New Workers Come From?
There are a number of efforts happening to entice young people, as well as persons looking to change careers, to consider a career in construction. One major factor that sets construction careers apart is that the barrier to entry is low, in most cases you can begin a job in construction without a college degree.
High School Students and Guidance Counselors
According to the National Association of Home Builders, one of their recent surveys found that 85% of employers cited labor as their number one issue as they headed into 2021. Also, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average construction laborer makes $42,000/year which is significantly above retail employment which has an average of $30,940.
There is a lack of awareness and education at the high school level and the industry needs to take responsibility to recruit, engage and educate potential workers to create the next generation of trade workers. If college or the military aren’t part of students' plans, they will be looking elsewhere to jump start their career - and why not a career in construction?
Many school counselors know that careers in construction can be rewarding and lucrative but they aren’t informed as to how to guide the students down that path. This is a big knowledge gap that construction companies need to take advantage of.
Some State Governments Are Taking Action
In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak recently signed two bills into law (Assembly Bill 227 and Senate Bill 247) related to construction and apprenticeship. The first measure protects industry workers, ensures they are paid wages commensurate with their skills and prevents off the books work.
The second law supports apprenticeship and work-based-learning programs as a critical element in building the state of Nevada’s workforce and economic future.
Hollywood and The Media Is Paying Attention
There is already a huge fanbase for television programs related to real estate, remodeling and construction. As reported in Construction Drive. In July, "The Money Machine," a documentary show dedicated to showcasing the benefits of working in the trades as potential career paths for young people, will begin airing on platform JUL-TV. The channel, which is available on Roku devices, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick and similar devices, will air one episode a week, with eight confirmed episodes and a chance to produce more.
In addition to television, discussions about the benefits of trade schools are in the news more than ever. With the continuing rise in college tuition and college loan debt coupled with the fact that the wages for graduates are dropping, trade schools can be a much more attractive option. Wages for university grads are 2.5 percent lower than what they were 15 years ago, according to the latest edition of the Economic Policy Institute’s annual report on the labor market prospects of new workers. The research found that young college grads’ hourly wages currently sit at an average of $17.94, or just over $37,000 annually. In 2000, the average hourly rate was $18.41. Many of the construction opportunities listed above offer higher wages with much less investment.
Trade Schools and Changing Perception
Trade schools have long struggled to gain recognition as a worthy alternative to four-year colleges, but the pandemic and other factors are changing perceptions, with one-third of Americans now viewing trade school as a more favorable option than college.
- 33 percent of Americans now think trade school is a better option than college.
- Trade schools come with less debt.
- A trade school will generally put you into your career much faster than college.
Trade schools (also called vocational schools) differ from traditional colleges in several ways. First, the schools offer very different educational experiences. Traditional colleges often focus on theoretical concepts. At college, most learning occurs during classroom lectures. Colleges rarely allow students to apply theories in the real world. By contrast, trade schools focus almost solely on practical skills. In classroom sessions, instructors demonstrate specific skills. Unlike colleges, trade schools normally require that students complete a specific number of practical hours or otherwise demonstrate their skills before graduation.
Colleges and trade schools differ in the amount of time they take to complete. Traditional colleges award bachelor’s degrees to students after four years of study. Trade school certificates generally take far less time than bachelor’s degrees, anywhere from two weeks to two years. This allows students from trade schools to begin earning much sooner than their college counterparts.
The schools differ greatly in how much they cost. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the cost for four years of college can be anywhere from $80,000 to $160,000. By contrast, the average cost for a vocational program is around $33,000. Because trade school costs so much less than college, it can be a good option for students who lack financial resources. Trade schools also mean much less student loan debt!
Trade School Jobs Are More Secure Than People Know
Historically, unemployment has been lowest among those with the most education but that isn’t always the case.
The construction field, in particular, is in the midst of a huge rebound that will require a growing labor force. Between May 2020 and August 2020, unemployment in the construction field dropped from 12.7 percent to 7.6 percent, and in that same time, more than 200,000 jobs were added.
Perceptions about trade school are changing, with many now recognizing an alternative path to a well-paying, stable job with less student loan debt.
Technology is Going to Play a Major Factor
The labor shortage is causing owners, general contractors and other trades to consider labor saving methods. Technology in methods, machinery and systems are all becoming more prevalent in the construction office and on the jobsite.
- A reduction in labor supply encouraged builders to adopt more labor-saving technology faster than usual.
- Improvement in the scheduling and logistics of building materials delivery.
- Increased use of prefabrication and modularization.
- BIM, Smart Contracts and BlockChain will be increasingly in use
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