October is Careers in Construction Month, an opportunity for home builders, materials suppliers, and others to increase public awareness of the outstanding opportunities available in the construction trades. This month of emphasis is timely due to exciting trends for those thinking about entering the residential construction industry.
In Pennsylvania and throughout much of the US, constructions jobs are plentiful and paying more wages than ever. The devastating recession that began in 2008 struck the construction industry particularly hard. Many skilled tradespeople simply gave-up hopes for well-paying jobs in residential housing, and in the case of the baby boomers, many simply retired.
Now in 2018, levels of supply and demand have reversed, with skilled construction workers desperately needed in all levels of residential building. This labor shortage is so acute that 91 percent of more than 2,700 contractors, construction managers, builders and trade contractors surveyed by Commercial Construction Index report having a difficult or moderately difficult time finding skilled workers.
In turn, pay has skyrocketed in tandem with the high demand. Historically, average wages in the residential construction industry are slightly higher than wages overall. As of March 2018, the average U.S. residential construction wage nationwide is about 13.7 percent above the average private-sector wage – a gap on par with late-2008 levels. Residential construction worker wages continue to grow at a 5 percent annual pace, almost double the 2.9 percent pace of wage growth for all workers.
Despite these increased wages and high worker demand, there aren’t enough skilled builders around to complete the work. Through the first quarter of 2018, employers have been looking to fill an average of nearly 225,000 construction jobs each month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That average was eclipsed in only one year going back to 2000 when the BLS first began tracking the data – and that year was 2007, at the tail end of the U.S. housing boom.
RANK/STATE/NO. OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS
1 California 863,600
2 Texas 763,100
3 Florida 541,700
4 New York 415,500
5 Pennsylvania 265,500
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics & Statistics
Construction trades: demand but lack of supply
A recent poll from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) of young Americans ages 18-to-25 shows that almost no millennials want a career in construction, despite the above average pay. 64 percent of these millennials said they wouldn’t even consider working in construction if you paid them $100,000 or more.
There are many reasons for the lack of skilled tradespeople. Millennials were more likely to grow up with a focus on a four-year college degree. Coupled with budget cuts to high school vocational and skills development programs this overemphasis on four-year degrees helped create a negative stigma in the trade professions. Finally, the opioid epidemic and random drug testing by employers have shut out a large swath of potential workers nationwide, especially in areas of the Rust Belt and Midwest (including Pennsylvania).
Construction trades: five reasons to join the construction industry
So you or someone you know is beginning their first career, or are looking to switch to opportunities for more money and advancement. If more convincing is needed than what we’ve stated above, here are five reasons to consider a career in the building trades:
Builders Across the Country Are Hiring
Home builders in Pennsylvania and nationwide are seeking skilled workers — especially carpenters, framers and roofers to help them build the American Dream. This means there is ample opportunity for motivated students seeking a rewarding career path. The number of open construction sector jobs is expected to reach 275,000 by the end of 2018, according to the analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
Job Satisfaction and Competitive Salaries
Residential construction workers consistently express high job satisfaction. Average salaries in Pennsylvania remain competitive with other industries in our area. For example, brick masons and carpenters can enter the industry in Pennsylvania with a starting salary of over $51,000 annually. Specialized fields such as electrician and construction supervisor can earn much more. Projections from all sources predict that construction jobs will see steady wage growth for at least the next five years.
Career Ladders with No Limit
When people think of professions with great opportunities for advancement, construction might not immediately come to mind. But from an entry-level labor position, a home building worker has the opportunity to learn more highly-skilled trades, serve as frontline management, grow into a company management role, and eventually, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, even own their own home building or remodeling firm. And this is just within one type of company; there is always the opportunity to take a job with a supplier, a specialty contractor, or any other of dozens of supporting companies essential to the residential construction industry.
Diversity of Skilled Trades to Consider
A home builder relies on a number of highly trained workers to get the job done right. This includes dozens of skilled artisans and professionals, including carpenters, architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, painters and landscapers. Analysis from NAHB shows that 70 percent of builders typically use between 11 and 30 subcontractors to build a single-family home. Indeed, there are many different trades you can pursue depending on your personal interests.
Rewarding Career without College Debt
At a time when countless college graduates are finding themselves underemployed and saddled with crushing student debt, it’s important to know that earning a college degree is not the only road to success. A vocational education is equally rewarding and can be obtained at a fraction of the cost.
PBA created its Endorsed Trade Program (ETP) with the primary goal of bridging the gap between training and career. ETP awards hundreds of students an advanced trade certification in collaboration with trade schools around Pennsylvania in fields such as building construction, cabinetry, HVAC, masonry, and plumbing. Students who complete the PBA-certified program are then tested and receive their accreditation - providing reassurance to builders and potential employers they are well-prepared for work with a residential construction company. Students and schools that participate in PBA’s ETP have the unique chance to work directly with residential contractors who can share real-life pointers and applications. Moreover, the students gain exposure to potential employers or references who can open the doors to the right job.
A career in construction is not just another job. It’s an opportunity to build a lifetime of success and fulfillment.For more information, go to NAHB’s Careers in the Construction Trades