If you have ever stopped to think about the construction industry, you would realize it is quite a unique field. The construction industry affects everyone’s life and it offers products whose value can increase over time. It is also an industry where brick & mortar meets cutting edge technology and offers a wide range of challenging employment opportunities.
Although the industry offers many employment opportunities, there continues to be a critical skills shortage in the industry. Entrance of young men into the industry has decreased overtime and selection of a construction related profession as a career choice is not popular among young people. The recruitment of women into the construction workforce has long been identified as a potential solution to overcome the labor shortage. Unfortunately, much remains to be done to encourage young women into this field.
Currently, according to the 2014 Department of Labor report, more than 9 million people work in the construction industry and only 8.9 percent are female. Moreover, of the small segment of women in the industry, the vast majority serve in administrative or clerical positions.
It is clear the construction industry is in desperate need of young talent and attracting women into the industry is both necessary and critical. In order to attract female participation in construction on the same levels of female participation in sectors such as healthcare, education, and finance, educating them about career opportunities as young women is vital. With construction careers still considered nontraditional options for women, most girls are not encouraged to explore their carpentry skills or consider a position as a project manager.
In March, I was honored to speak at the inaugural “Power Up: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing” event in Birmingham. The mission of the summit focusing on workforce development was to empower young women and their mothers to become engaged and educated while exploring career opportunities in the construction industry. The day-long event – a collaborative partnership between Central Six Development Council, Alabama Workforce Council Region 4, Girl’s Inc., Robins & Morton, Alabama Industrial Development Center and Alabama Workforce Training Center – featured a roster of speakers in the construction and industry fields who shared their backgrounds and career paths and what young woman can do to prepare themselves for successful work in the field.
It was a great opportunity to educate the girls and their mothers on degree and non-degree pathways into the construction industry, engage both through one-on-one dialogue with women and employers in the construction industry, all while they explored the industry with hands-on activities that simulate real-world situations.
I can’t describe how great it was to sit in a room of more than 150 mothers and daughters and think some of the young women in that room could be the next Steve Jobs or Richard Branson of construction. And it was humbling to be a part of this event, as I was astonished by how much progress continues to be made as we educate young talent and remove barriers as we strive to develop a diversified, stronger, 21st century construction industry workforce.