When children are asked what they aspire to be when they grow up, they’ll typically say something like a doctor, actor, superstar, professional athlete or even the president. Those are all interesting and rewarding jobs, but the truth is that only about 10% of adults currently hold their childhood dream job.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t discover new ones. There are a lot of jobs and careers that we never hear of until we get older and understand the world better. And when students reach high school, they start to research career options and accurately consider what they want to do.
Still, construction careers 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?
SHOWCASE THE STATISTICS
Stats aren’t very exciting for most students, but it’s important for them to know the reality of the world they live in because it enables them to make informed decisions for their future careers, rather than ones based on assumptions or misconceptions. Here’s just a handful of stats that suggest why college might not be the best option for all students:
- 70% of jobs in the economy don’t require a 4-year degree. Many ignore this statistic because they assume those jobs ultimately don’t pay as much, but that’s not entirely true. More education doesn’t always get you more money.
- Total college debt is estimated to be around $1.7 trillion, averaging almost $30,000 per student.
- 30% of college freshmen drop out before their sophomore year. There are obviously many reasons why students drop out of college, but we’re willing to bet that some of the top ones are (a) student debt, and (b) the fact that their career interests simply never required a college degree in the first place.
Why construction/skilled trades careers are a smart option to consider:
- Trade school, apprenticeships, or opportunities to learn on the job help students make money sooner with less debt compared to college students.
- High demand in construction means many job opportunities.
- Over half of the seasoned construction workforce is expected to retire by 2036, meaning the upcoming will have HUGE opportunities for advancement.
Many students look at college as the only option to choose after high school, which is not only inaccurate, but also unfair to the students. It’s important for us to start having honest conversations like rising student loan debt and the saturation of job markets, so that the attitude toward construction careers can shift into a more accurate light and students can make informed decisions that are in their best interest.
MATCH THEIR INTERESTS WITH THEIR CAREERS
Enjoying your job makes a happier working experience. The beauty with construction is that there are many different specializations in the industry, and a lot of different skills, tasks and environments.
Do they like video games or working on a computer? They might make an excellent heavy equipment operator. Do they like to travel or spend time outdoors? 100% of the work Dakota Underground does it outdoors, and our job sites are all over the tri-state area. Do they enjoy math or even art? A lot of the work we do requires detailed measuring and math skills, and many consider the work to be a “craft” of some sort—whether it’s digging holes, laying pipe, paving concrete or finishing concrete, the hands-on work and the ability to see its result is a very rewarding experience.
TALK WITH COMPANIES
Reach out to construction companies in the area and see if you can arrange some classroom visits with members of their team. They 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.
You can also consider scheduling field trips. Construction projects are often hidden from view behind fences or barricades, so getting a close-up of the action is probably something most students haven’t been able to do. Being able to see it first-hand can reveal a lot about the complexities of the work, and also show them how what they might learn in school/program is directly applied to the real job. And if a field trip isn’t possible, you can find construction videos on YouTube.
Encourage students to start practicing relevant skills and getting hands-on experience to make these career opportunities feel within reach. Because the truth is, they are!