Recently, I described the reasoning behind the creation of Construction Career Collaborative (C3) and attributed it to the fact that the construction industry has an unsustainable workforce. In that essay, I listed five different but related reasons how we got “into this mess.” Among those are a misclassification of craft workers as subcontractors, a movement away from craft training and safety training, a de-emphasis of vocational education in our high schools in an effort to prepare all students for college, a perception among young people that the construction industry is dirty and unsafe, and a flood of undocumented workers who work in the shadows with no recourse to address wage abuse resulting in downward pressure on wages. All of these reasons contribute to why young people are not attracted to an industry that formerly provided an excellent path to a middle class living.
So one might ask, “What is the solution to this problem?” For starters, the commercial construction industry must cease business practices that make it unattractive to prospective workforce candidates such as misclassification of its workers as contract employees. To be blunt, who wants to work in an industry that does not pay matching social security taxes, federal and state unemployment taxes, provide workers compensation insurance, or any form of employee benefits?
Further, many craft trades in the commercial construction industry do not provide formal craft training or safety training. We must UNITE as an industry to develop and deliver this training in order to attract and develop our most important resource – our people.
In addition, we must HELP our school districts redevelop vocational education once again for it sows the seeds of interest in the construction industry with high school students.
Then, we must CREATE a construction-focused curriculum within our community colleges that prepares young people for entry into our workforce.
We must do what all other healthy industries do to attract people to their workforce. We must stop misclassifying our craft workers, pay them properly, and teach them the skills that they need to be successful.
We have work to do, and it will require members of the commercial construction industry to JOIN together to solve this problem.
Construction Career Collaborative
Construction Industry Institute (CII)
Construction Users Roundtable (CURT)
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)