Rebuilding the Infrastructure Creates Opportunities for Young People

Glen E. Tellock and Lynne Woodworth, Association of Equipment Manufacturers | September 28, 2010

Crumbling bridges, overcrowded roadways, aging water and wastewater systems diminish our quality of life. The national focus has been on the need to invest public funds into these projects - both as a solution to our infrastructure woes and also as a stimulus to boost the sagging economy.

But the hidden problem of this infrastructure crisis is the lack of skilled workers we will need to solve all these problems.

The current construction workforce is getting older and looking forward to retirement. At the same time, demand is growing for skilled labor, creative engineers and trusted safety inspectors. The construction industry expects to create a million new jobs over the next five years, and young people, their teachers and their families need to know more about this opportunity.

A new generation of workers is needed to help lead the building and repair of our nation's roads, bridges, schools and more. The machines that make us productive need qualified, educated people to design, manufacture, operate and repair them.

In January, the construction industry launched a student competition - the Construction Challenge. This event is not just about blue ribbons but focuses on introducing young people to challenging careers and connecting them with potential employers. The Construction Challenge aims to share that information, reward students and educate the public about the growing demand for skilled workers in the construction industry.

The Construction Challenge finale took place during one of the world’s largest trade shows, CONEXPO-CON/AGG. More than 50 teams competed for scholarships and prizes and the chance to learn new skills and network with leaders from the industry.

Whether they are building schools and skyscrapers, repairing thousands of miles of roads, constructing bridges, or manufacturing the equipment that makes all of this work happen, those working in the construction industry form the basic structures that allow our country - and the world - to work and thrive every day.

The Construction Challenge introduced students to the variety of career paths in the construction industry from manufacturing to in-the-field opportunities. For example, there is a growing demand for trained workers in the trades, such as equipment operators and machinists. These jobs require highly skilled people, some of whom may have to earn at least a two-year technical school degree. Another path is for college graduates looking for such managerial and professional jobs as industrial engineers, safety inspectors, IT managers and even sales professionals. Whatever the path, they all lead to rewarding, good-paying job opportunities for the next generation.

Our national face lift will keep the country moving ahead, create a million new jobs and will require highly skilled individuals to choose careers in the construction industry.

Glen E. Tellock is president and CEO, Manitowoc Company and board chair of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Lynne Woodworth is president and CEO of Stone Construction Equipment and the vice chair of construction for AEM.