What are the biggest problems the construction industry faces?
The labor shortage comes in very near the top of the list. In some areas of the country this problem is more pronounced than other areas and seems to be getting worse.
How do you correct a condition that exists because of the way people think? The obvious answer is you have to change their thinking. That's the real challenge. What do you want your children to be when they grow up — doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, dentists, actors, and the like? How many of you want your sons and/or daughters to be crane operators, diesel mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, or any other skilled trade professional?
Years ago children played in a backyard sandbox building roads and cities and what have you. Today trying to pry them away from the TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, or computer is a real challenge. If you do have children that are interested in outdoor activities, chances are their dreams are of making the NBA, NFL or AFL, PGA Tour, or some other office job. As parents we encourage this. We want the future generations to be successful.
The fact is that without skilled labor, without trained professionals in the "service industries," there won't be much of a future for any profession. Hospitals, soundstages, court rooms, TV studios, laboratories, sports arenas, schools, golf courses, churches, or anything else simply can't exist or continue to exist without a construction industry to put it in place and then keep it up to date.
On the top of that list of "where-would-we-be" questions, you have to wonder about our highways, airports, rail, and marine terminals. With our dependency on imports ...
As you know, there are all types of professional positions in our industry from architect, designer and metallurgists to civil engineers, computer programmers and project managers. The level of satisfaction, accomplishment and achievement you feel when the job is done is incredible. How many of you have worked on a project and taken friends or family to see it once it has been completed; or called attention to it when you drive by or over or on it? Other industries can take their production or manufacturing offshore to other countries. That can't happen with construction. This is one industry that has to happen in situ and we need the work force for growing and reshaping America.
There are numerous programs offered through private companies, associations, government agencies, public schools, community colleges, and universities for students of all ages, whether they are first-graders or industry veterans. From fun and entertaining programs for children to degree-granting courses of study, there is no doubt that there are a lot of concerned and passionate people out there who are trying to introduce others to construction and educate them about the industry, as well as provide ongoing training for those who have made it a career.
The ACP editors have elected to take you on an armchair tour of some of these programs. Over the next five months there will be a series of national and regional articles that focus on some of the things being done to address the construction labor shortage problems. It is our hope that by giving you an opportunity to see what is going on you will be encouraged to participate in similar programs or even create new and better ones.
With all that is being done there is room for more. At one time this industry belonged to the minorities — Italians, Poles and Irish immigrants were the bulk of the construction work force. With the exception of immigrant laborers there is a noticeable absence of minorities in the industry from middle management and above. This could exacerbate depending on the outcome of our immigration legislation.
The inner cities beg for programs that can tap into an incredible resource of potential talent and skill if given the opportunity. Can we find a way to help both our industry and the inner cities fill a need? With a group of people as creative as contractors we certainly should.
We hope that this series of articles will stimulate thinking that will result in more programs that can tap into existing resources and also help attract students who are thinking about careers, professions and the future. America grows only through construction.