Many of you have either heard of or read my blogs in which I have said we need to be focusing on our infrastructure. If you are a builder, contractor, or a construction company there is no greater time in history to be thinking about what is it going to take to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Even President Trump has taken up the cause and made mention of it in his first State of the Union speech. Why? First, there is more at stake than an infrastructure that gets a D+ grade from the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). And not just because it’s failing and it’s failing quickly. Perhaps even more importantly, we should be asking how we are going to solve our infrastructure problems if we can’t even find the skilled workforce to build those roads, bridges, and dams that most citizens take for granted every day.

While I do not want to argue politics here, I think most of us can agree with the president that it is time to “reclaim our building heritage” and that it’s time to build new “gleaming roads and bridges with American heart, hands, and grit.”

We are a nation of builders and it’s for that reason we need to invest in our people. We need to invest in workforce development and job training. We are seeing an explosive growth of disruptive technology that is changing the work landscape. As a result, we are witnessing less and less young people with marketable skills or a desire to move into professions they deem undesirable. Thus, the construction industry is struggling to find and hire a skilled workforce. It’s clear that transformative ideas take transformative thinking to solve the chronic labor shortage that is plaguing construction.

Manufacturers saw the tech age come and they didn’t respond perhaps as quick as they could have. We must look to our past to take those lessons learned to recognize the problem extends beyond just filling positions. To fix this massive problem, we need to think outside the box when it comes to career training and we are learning from the past to solve the problems now and into the future. This means fighting cultural bias against technical training programs and vocational schools and encourage young people to see broader job opportunities.

There is much we can all do together. That is why we started the Constructech Skillset Academy. The first one will be hosted by Iowa State University on April 16. The goal is teach our young men and women that there are wonderful positions in construction. We want to help them understand it’s not about the dirty jobs they envision. It’s about sharing with them the many new and exciting positions that they never imagined. It’s about earning a good wage and having a career in a field they can enjoy for many years. And that includes working side by side with colleagues that can help them learn a trade. It’s time we tell the new story of construction.

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Peggy Smedley
Peggy Smedleyeditorial director