Bright Opportunities in Workforce

Guest Correspondence


It’s that time of year when many local high school students (and their parents) are starting to prepare for graduation. While some teens may already have their next steps firmly locked in place, others might be unsure about what happens after high school or feel pressured to head down a path that’s just not right for them.

Those students might find that a career in the construction industry could be an ideal fit. Students who are tactile learners and enjoy working with their hands often blossom in this field, finding well-paying, steady work and even going on to establish their own businesses one day.

Based on what I hear from the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange members, we need our local kids to get interested in our industry. Cultivating and retaining a workforce is the biggest issue we face in the construction industry today. Builders are busy again and in need of qualified employees and subcontractors to do everything from drywall to ductwork, as well as manage and supervise projects.

The problem is a lot of these workers left during the recession, and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back. And with many of the folks involved in our industry in their 40s and 50s, there’s an impeding tsunami of retirements coming down the road. 

A lack of labor increases production times and drives up costs for both builders and their customers. That’s why it’s so vital that we as an industry work to educate students about careers in construction and the trades—and see if pursuing a career in this field is a good fit for them. There’s been a big push to drive all students toward four-year college degrees, but that’s just not the right path for every student out there.

Students can find lots of good-paying jobs in construction with plenty of room for climbing the career ladder. According to 2015 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for Florida, the annual mean wage for all occupations in the state is $42,860.

Many occupations in the construction field boast annual mean wages that come close to or beat that, including pile-driver operators ($49,610), electricians ($42,600), plumbers and pipe fitters ($39,170) and construction and building inspectors ($56,980). And a 2016 labor market analysis put out by CareerEdge showed that the average annual pay for the construction field in Sarasota County grew between 10 percent and 15 percent between 2012 and 2015. 

To tell local students about these kinds of opportunities, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange will be hosting a Construction Rodeo on May 11 at Manatee Technical College from 10am to 12:30pm. Interested students from Sarasota and Manatee Counties will be bussed to the event, where speakers and hands-on activities will help open their eyes to the different career paths that are out there.

We hope to make this an annual event that leads to internships and paid apprenticeships for students that eventually turn into careers. Many students reach their junior and senior years of high school and still haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives. We hope to catch some of those kids and show them all that they can do in construction and the trades.

Mary Dougherty-Slapp is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. 

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