CareerStarter tool paves a path into construction vocations

Dive Brief:

  • The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) has launched a new, free program in an effort to help workers get started in the industry, at a time when construction has a lot of hard hats it needs to fill. 
  • CareerStarter, part of the nonprofit’s Build Your Future initiative, provides a hub for potential tradespeople to explore career options, take quizzes to find the right fit and search for nearby training opportunities.
  • Tool maker Stanley Black & Decker and construction software provider Procore are paying for the program, making it free to schools, employers and workers alike.

Dive Insight:

Construction faces an uphill battle, with a worker gap of 650,000 people or more. After jobs fell off a cliff at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the number of workers who returned to the industry has only just surpassed prepandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

It took 23 months to get back to that point. In March, the industry counted 7.6 million workers, still lagging behind the high demand builders face for boots on the ground.

The multi-decade shift that favors college as a career path over the trades has only exacerbated that challenge.

For example, in 1969, 8 million students were enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, with 5.8 million students full-time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

In 2019, that number was 19.6 million enrolled students, 12 million full-time. And 57% of higher education students were female, a demographic that construction has struggled to attract into its workforce. 

The emphasis on postsecondary education means that path is well worn for today’s high school graduates, while the entry point into the trades isn’t as clear.

At the same time, an emphasis on mathematics and testing has resulted in school systems focusing less on classes like woodshop. That has ultimately led to a lack of funding for vocational curriculum as well. 

“Individuals know how to get into college and where to go to apply for jobs online, but they don’t know how to get into construction, where to get the necessary training and how to get their first job in the industry,” said Jennifer Wilkerson, vice president of innovation and advancement for NCCER, in a statement

But NCCER is hoping its partnership with Stanley Black & Decker and Procore to launch CareerStarter will change that.

NCCER worked with North Carolina-based workforce development firm Futures to bring its talent pipeline technology platform to the construction industry. The firm has previously worked with the U.S. military and state-wide organizations to build job candidate pipelines. 

But CareerStarter is the first comprehensive program specifically designed to take individuals from curiosity to career in the construction industry, NCCER said. 

The program is currently active in Texas and North Carolina, and will roll it out nationwide in the coming months.

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