It’s Time to Take Another Look at Career Opportunities in the Building Trades
At a time when countless college graduates are finding they are underemployed and saddled with crushing student debt, it is time for educators and policymakers to reexamine the widely held belief that a college degree represents the only road to success.
The building trades offer a great career path. Regrettably, fewer students are seeking careers in the construction industry because many parents and guidance counselors are steering them toward a college pathway rather than a vocational route. This is particularly unfortunate, given the shortage of skilled workers in the residential construction industry and the fact that carpenters, electricians, framers, roofers and others in the field earn good salaries and express high job satisfaction.
Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics Survey data and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the 2015 median annual wage of most positions in the residential building sector was $39,500 – 10 percent above the U.S. median annual wage of $35,540. The median average annual salary in New York State for most residential construction jobs is $55,720.
The labor shortages can be attributed in part to the fact that many skilled residential construction workers were forced to seek employment elsewhere during the Great Recession, when more than 1.4 million jobs were lost as builders across the nation were forced to shutter their doors or lay off workers. Many trades retrained their construction workers and they are not returning to the housing sector.
With the nationwide housing recovery now picking up steam, it is imperative that America trains more workers and leaders in the construction industry. The number of open construction sector jobs in March was 147,000, the third-highest monthly total since the Great Recession ended, according to the latest BLS data.
The residential construction industry is one of the few sectors where demand for new workers is rising, and the housing industry is working diligently to meet this challenge.
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