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The Future of the Construction Industry: More young people becoming skilled workers 

I recently noticed my 5-year-old nephew hammering away at a workbench. It wasn’t just any workbench; it used to be mine when I was his age! He’s off to a good start. We need more kids at workbenches because, ultimately, we need more young people becoming skilled workers.

An important responsibility among those in the construction industry that doesn’t get enough attention is encouraging young people to enter this field. When those young people are from areas where kids lack opportunities, the benefits for them and everyone else are all the greater. Here are five initiatives that I admire and would like to highlight:

  1. Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” is a proponent of job skills and changing attitudes about blue-collar work. He shows how the primary obstacle has been the downgrading of working hard when there’s an alternative –  if you can get a college education and work in an air-conditioned office.
  2. Tom Decker and www.ChicagoGreenInsulation.com are involved in a number of social justice organizations that help give kids more opportunity, including Curts Cafe, the Lake County Workforce, and the Obama Foundation. 
  3. Scott Simpson (www.ScottSimpsonBuilders.com) Scott is a founding member of Revolution Workshop (www.RevolutionWorkshop.org), a program taking an active role in job skill and workforce training for unemployed people.
  4. Most obvious and popular, the This Old House crew is active and visible, elevating the stature and value of skilled trades.
  5. Last but not least, Solid Rock Carpenters not only produces work for those in need but also translates its projects into job skills opportunity, through “build days” and “build weekends.” It’s very open, with a lot of participation. While there is no curriculum, it’s very hands-on and there is safety training – how to drive a nail properly or assemble a wall, for instance. Carpentry is a crucial component of any construction project; if you look at the scope of any single-family home, it’s about 60-65% of the total investment. It’s the foundation of good quality. When I worked for a design-build firm, we had in-house rough carpenters — drywallers and trim carpenters were happier and did a better job, and the crew didn’t have to fix things or plumb things up.

The construction industry can be a great place for anyone with an interest and drive to create things and we definitely need more young people becoming skilled workers. Do you know a teen or someone else who might enjoy learning with good mentors and doing this kind of work? Send that young person our way!