Gone are the days when U.S. high schools emphasized skilled trades and prioritized vocational training. For better or for worse, the systemic mindset shift favoring a four-year degree in an academic discipline is now the status quo, and now, as a generation of workers nears retirement, the construction industry is suffering because of it. However, some schools are making efforts to bring career technical education back to their classrooms.
The Temecula Valley Unified School District, for instance, offers industry-specific courses in building and construction trades, engineering and architecture, transportation and automotive, and many others. More than 4,000 students participated in a CTE (career technical education) course in the district last year, and the 2018-19 school year has even more CTE enrollees. The district’s goal is to produce graduates who are prepared for high-skilled, high-demand jobs out of high school.
Technology tools like a pair of new video games by Simcoach Games and the Intl. Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 can also play a role in attracting younger workers to career opportunities as heavy equipment operators in industries like construction and infrastructure.
“Dig In: An Excavator Game” and “Dig In: A Dozer Game” are free mobile games that put players in the seats of heavy equipment to attempt challenging tasks and levels, Simcoach says. Then, as players progress through the games, they receive messages connecting them to real-life construction apprenticeships. The games, which were developed in conjunction with subject-matter experts, aim to connect youth with job opportunities in construction and inspire them to turn the fun into lifelong careers.
This will be critical for the construction industry in the year ahead, as construction firms need to be thinking about is how they can leverage technology to streamline workflows, achieve maximum process efficiencies and build quality, and, in general, alleviate bottlenecks and other issues associated with the labor shortage, which is expected to get worse before it gets better.
This topic is covered in-depth in the new issue of the magazine—available today. In it, we focus on the economic state of construction, the labor shortage, and how the industry can build more with less.
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