Young Adults Not High on Construction Trades as Career Choice

May 4th, 2017 by Nick St. Denis

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, while a majority of young adults are certain about the field in which they want to have (or already have) a career, an alarmingly low number view “construction trades” as that field.

Seventy-four percent of the 2,001 young adults polled, ranging from 18 to 25 years old, responded affirmatively to a question about the field they plan to pursue a career in—though just 3 percent selected construction.

The remaining 26 percent who were not sure of a particular field were asked to grade 14 occupations on a 1-5 scale: 1 meaning no chance of considering the field regardless of pay, and 5 meaning a very good chance of considering the field if the pay is high. Construction ranked ninth.

The research project was developed in response to the severe labor shortages currently affecting the industry nationwide. “The current scarcity of construction labor is all the more concerning given projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the construction sector will add around 790,000 new jobs in the decade leading up to 2024,” the report reads.

Why Construction?

Of those who want to work in the construction trades, the two most important benefits are good pay and the idea that it allows them to obtain useful skills. These benefits were cited by 80 and 74 percent of this group, respectively. According to the report, at least half also mention three other benefits: career success relies on skills they already possess; it allows them to work outside; and it gives them the ability to start their own business.

The lack of a college degree, or the fact that it is often seasonal work, was a factor for the majority of those choosing to work in the construction trades.

Why Not Construction?

Of the 63 percent of undecided young adults who indicated there was no or little chance they would consider a career in the construction trades no matter the pay, nearly half said the most important reason is that they want a less physically demanding job. The second reason is that construction work is difficult, and the third is that they want an office job.

As the report points out, this goes against the “often-repeated presumptions that it is because they prefer ‘new economy’ type jobs, or because the work is seasonal or requires being outside in the elements.”

Paying the Price

“The helpful news for the construction industry is that many 18-25-year-olds who in theory would not like to work in the trades would reconsider it for an annual salary of $75,000 or more,” the report reads. According to the latest Occupational Employment Statistics from the BLS, there are a number of occupations where the top one-fourth of workers do earn at least $75,000, especially in certain parts of the country.

“For example, although the national average earnings for First-line Supervisors of construction workers is below $75,000, the top one-quarter of these supervisors earn at least $75,000. At the state level, the top one-fourth of supervisors earn $75,000 or more in 27 states.” According to the report, in five states, a quarter of glaziers make or exceed this salary level, and at the national level, the top 10 percent of workers in this occupation earn more than $75,000.

“Also, experience in the construction trades is often a necessary intermediate step on a career path toward a management or executive position in a construction company, or toward owning and operating a trade contracting business,” the report notes. “There are over 400,000 trade construction businesses in the U.S. (plus another 2 million if you count the small ones without paid employees).”

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