The construction industry is particularly vulnerable in terms of its workforce shortage. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Builders and Contractors reports that there is a national shortage of over 550,000 construction craft professionals to meet current industry demand. Over the next decade construction will be one of the fastest growing industries which will place increasing pressure on educational institutions and the industry itself to develop new ways to attract workers to construction, particularly, at the craft level. In many construction trades, the average age of a craftsmen is over 50 years old. If this workforce shortage is not addressed, construction risk will continue to increase resulting in higher construction costs, project delays, and increased insurance claims related to safety and quality issues.
As lead of the JE Dunn Construction Dallas Office, I have a long-standing passion for construction workforce development, actively advancing initiatives related to training the next generation of craft professionals, supporting small business capacity building, and recruiting the next generation of workers to the construction industry. This passion has even led me to the White House, on two occasions, to discuss the complexities of construction education, craft training, and recruitment for the construction industry.
This industry has experienced downward trends in terms of the numbers of U.S. students selecting construction as a career in the construction trades. Today, young people see construction and other “hands on” careers as less attractive as compared to the views of their parents and grandparents. Despite being a highly technical industry, construction is not viewed as intellectually challenging as other industries. Until recently, K-12 education placed tremendous focus on preparing students for college and deemphasized Career and Technical Education (CTE) initiatives to prepare high school students to enter the workforce upon receiving their high school diploma.
Workforce development within construction has been gaining attention with educational institutions at the high school and community college level. States and the federal government have begun to reinvest in CTE initiatives. Construction companies and industry associations are also increasing their focus on workforce development. In DFW, high schools and community colleges are working closely with private industries to develop solutions to attract and train a new generation of construction craft professionals. DFW’s largest commercial construction trade associations, TEXO and ASA, and their craft education partner the Construction Education Foundation (CEF) of North Texas are working with educational institutions to implement programs that will positively impact construction workforce development in North Texas.
As CEF Chairman, I was able to help CEF and Dallas College leadership plan and fund the development of a new, state of the art Construction Sciences Building at Dallas College’s North Lake campus in Coppell. At this new facility, opening in Fall 2021, CEF/Dallas College students will receive a myriad of construction craft training and educational opportunities to support their apprenticeship and career development. Additionally, this new facility supports Dallas College’s partnership with Dallas Independent School District’s Wilmer Hutchins High School E-Tech Construction Technology program. TEXO is a primary industry sponsor of the Wilmer Hutchins program. Graduates of the Wilmer Hutchins E-TECH program will have received, at this facility, hands on learning related to various construction trades. Upon receiving their high school diploma students will also receive a Dallas College Associates Degree in Construction Technology preparing them to enter the construction industry or continue their construction related education at the university level. This is just one of several initiatives in North Texas to respond to the need for bringing in the next generation of construction craftsmen into the industry.