Careers in construction are not known as popular career aspirations among children and teenagers. Growing up, they typically want to be something like a doctor, lawyer, actor, professional athlete or even the president.
While those are all interesting and potentially high-paying dream jobs, the truth is that most people don’t become actors or athletes. In fact, studies show that only about 10% of adults currently hold their childhood dream job.
But that doesn’t mean students can’t discover a new dream job as they get older. There are a lot of jobs and careers that we don’t even know exist until we get older and understand the world better. And when students get to high school, they are at the age where they are starting to research career options and thinking about what they want to do much more seriously.
Construction careers like carpentry, welding and masonry typically aren’t on the radar for many students. Because these jobs don’t require a four-year degree, they often get overlooked or thought of as less desirable – even though they pay well and typically have high job satisfaction. So how can educators inspire their students and get them interested in these career options?
Lots of numbers and statistics may not be the most exciting things for students to look at. But it’s important to show them the reality of the world so they start to think of things in a new light, rather than based on assumptions and misconceptions.
There are many important pieces of information that can be eye-openers for students. Here are just a few.
Why going to college might not be the best option for all students:
Why skilled trades are a viable option:
Students often have the mindset that college isn’t just the best option after high school – it’s the only option. By having honest discussions about topics like rising student loan debt and the saturation of job markets, you can help set the foundation for new ideas and attitudes.
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
This quote is cliché, but it’s true that enjoying the activities involved in your job makes working an overall better and happier experience.
There is a wide variety of different career specializations in the construction industry, and a lot of different skills, tasks and work environments. With so many options, there are opportunities that can match each student based on their individual preferences and interests.
Do they like video games or working on a computer? Do they like to travel or spend time outdoors? Do they enjoy math or art? No matter a student’s hobbies, there’s likely a career in construction that incorporates it to some degree.
Check out these resources from Build Your Future to help students explore career options and find their fit:
How else best to learn about careers in construction than to talk with real professionals in the industry?
Reach out to local construction companies and see if you can arrange some classroom visits with members of their team. Whether through in-person visits or via a virtual call, the craft professionals can discuss how they got started in the industry, what a typical day looks like, what they like about their job and why students should consider following a similar path.
Visits like these also gives students opportunities to ask questions directly about the industry that only someone in the industry, and not a Google search, could answer.
Hearing the testimony straight from the mouth of someone who actually works in the industry can be a powerful experience for students. It shows authenticity – something Gen Z finds very important – and helps to convey the passion and enthusiasm craft professionals have for working in the skilled trades.
To help encourage more interactions like this, Build Your Future has started the Careers in Construction Month Pledge, a call to both industry and education to form connections during Careers in Construction Month, which occurs annually in October. Take the Pledge for your program today to learn more about building industry/education partnerships.
Field trips have long been a great educational tool, allowing students to step outside of the classroom and into the real world to learn. Why not use a field trip to teach about the world of construction?
Construction projects are often hidden from view behind security fences or barricades, so getting a close-up view of the action is probably something most students have not had a chance to do. By coordinating with local construction companies for site tours, you can get your students on the premises, into hard hats and behind the scenes.
Being able to see construction first-hand can reveal a lot about the complexities of the work and the variety of tasks that go into creating a new structure. They can also see how what they might learn in a training program is directly applied to the real job.
Sometimes scheduling a real field trip to an active construction project can be tricky, so if you are unable to work it out, consider some alternatives that can help deliver a similar impact. Look up Go-Pro construction videos on YouTube, or maybe even find a virtual reality tour that works with VR headsets.
You can talk about construction, introduce students to real craft professionals and even take them to see a construction project live. But sometimes the best way to inspire students to become builders is to let them build.
Encouraging students to start to practicing relevant skills and getting true hands-on experience helps to make these career opportunities feel within reach.
Whether they join one of your school’s career and technical education programs or just start to experiment with cardboard and wood scraps in their garage, the inspiration can come naturally. Seeing their own projects come to life before their very eyes is often the spark that leads the way to a lifelong passion and career.
Looking for more Build Your Future resources for your classroom? Check out our Educators page.