…to bring you this bulletin:

A solution to the construction industry’s shortage of skilled labor has been found…

According To The Wall Street Journal…

“Of all the decisions that 18-year-olds can make about their future, one is becoming more popular: going to trade school. The increasing appeal of skilled trade work is throwing a wrench in the enrollment levels of pricey four-year institutions as more young people opt out of traditional college and opt into vocational programs that offer good pay and stability.”

  • The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges increased 16% from 2022 to 2023, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
  • The number of students studying construction at four-year undergraduate programs rose ~12% since 2021.


  • Four-year schools used to seem like the most straightforward path to a high salary, but with their costs going up, they also lead to a lot of debt. 
  • Meanwhile, a shortage of skilled workers has driven up workers’ earnings: Median pay for construction workers rose more than 5% last year to $48,089, compared to $39,520 for new hires in professional services (like accountants and IT workers), according to payroll provider ADP.
  • Plus…software can’t repair a leak in your roof (yet). In a recent survey, the majority of young people said blue-collar jobs seemed more secure than white-collar ones amid developments in AI technology that could render some jobs obsolete.

Let’s Not Miss This Opportunity

For more than 40 years, the trend away from a career in the trades among our graduating high school classes has led to a critical shortage of skilled labor entering the construction labor pool. 

After World War II, the Baby Boomers were eager to get into the skilled trades to participate in the greatest buildout of a newly industrialized post-war economy the world has ever seen. However, as the boomers earned their way out of the urban areas to the suburbs they were building, they experienced upward mobility and ultimately wanted their children to become bosses rather than workers. A college education became the standard for every generation since. Gens X, Y, and Z were all swept along in this white-collar trend and wouldn’t think of settling for the trades. Recently, however, the millennials realized that college has become big business, and they are customers paying more than retail for a diploma that may or may not lead to a good paying, satisfying, and stable career. The “white collar career of choice” pendulum has begun to swing back in the skilled trades’ direction. We should take notice and respond positively by cooperating with and encouraging this new positive trend that could be our salvation.

A Positive Response

What does a positive response to this construction employment trend look like? It might look something like this:

  1. Recruiting and hiring graduates from the trade schools that are training this new crop of young people.
  2. Welcoming women into the trades with open arms and employing them on an equal footing with men.
  3. Start cooperating and helping to fashion apprenticeship programs that can again feed our shrinking labor pool. Work with trade unions to become our ally, rather than our historical nemesis. 
  4. Encourage your trade association to provide scholarships to students who qualify and want to specialize in a specific trade from the outset of their education.
  5. Sponsor “paths to citizenship” programs for skilled immigrants who will work for your company in your trade specialty.
  6. Lobby Washington to award an “essential services” designation to many of the building trades. Our industry is responsible for rebuilding the country’s aging infrastructure thereby providing a critical service to the nation.
  7. Initiate advanced on-the-job safety protocols and invest in labor saving technology to make the trades a safer and more modern work environment.
  8. Develop a formal retention program to keep the skilled trades on your team.

When the Tide Turns

This is a first alert. The trend away from careers in the skilled trades has lasted too long. The pendulum has started to swing back in our direction. We must do everything we can to encourage this reversal of direction and enable it to last as long as possible. We should also set aside any bias against women in the trades and improve relationships with trade unions. We should not view our skilled labor as an expense that must be minimized, but as an asset that we must invest in.

Next week we’ll return to the discussion about integrating strategies into an effective Management by Objectives program. 

For more information on labor issues, read more at: LABOR

For a broader view on growth, read more here: GROWTH

To receive the free weekly Construction Messages, ask questions, or make comments contact me at research@simplarfoundation.org.  

Please circulate this widely. It will benefit your constituents. This research is continuous and includes new information weekly as it becomes available. Thank you.