Few industries inspire the same passion, loyalty, and pride that construction does. Those who make their way into construction find more than just a job -- many of them find themselves committed to a career they love for decades to come. So what makes careers in construction so special? This career path means different things to different people, so our industry experts sat down with some of construction’s top talent to find out how they started their careers and what those careers mean to them today. Here’s what we learned:
Early Exposure to Careers in Construction is Critical
For many construction professionals, their introduction to the industry came at a very young age. Cathy Nichols, a specialist in Northwest general construction, spoke to one Senior Vice President client who told her, “I was exposed to the industry at an early age by my grandfather and was hooked. I never considered anything else.”
Jay Dubac, who focuses on the Midwest general construction market, spoke to a senior project management client with a similar story: “I grew up in the construction industry. My dad worked for a general contractor and would bring my brothers and me to the sites every now and then. Being able to watch a project grow, and see the amount of effort put in by everyone to achieve a common goal, always amazed me.” Kids who have family members or family friends who work in construction are significantly more likely to consider a career in construction than kids who aren’t exposed to the industry early.
Educational Programs Provide a Gateway to Careers in Construction
Another way to introduce the next generation of workers to the construction industry is through educational programs. One Director of Construction client we spoke with signed up for an architectural drafting elective in high school, which exposed him to a new skill set and interest. He went to architecture school, and then transitioned into construction labor, growing in the industry from there.
Another client attended a well-known engineering school. He told us, “I started in the civil engineering curriculum because I thought bridges were cool and wanted to learn all about them and how they were designed and built. After two years of engineering classes, I knew that I didn’t want to sit at a computer doing design work, but rather wanted to be in the “hands-on” application of building structures and buildings. I switched my major from civil engineering to construction management. This curriculum was a combination of the engineering classes that I had already taken and construction and business management classes.”
From offering elective courses like architectural drafting or carpentry to hosting college fairs that introduce students to trade schools and construction-focused university programs, there are numerous ways that schools can open students’ eyes to the endless possibilities of a career in construction.
Careers in Construction are Varied and Challenging
One sentiment we heard repeated frequently during our conversations was the appeal of a career that did not involve spending all day indoors, sitting in front of a computer. Executive Vice President David Goodrum spoke with a heavy civil client, who explained, “I always liked the outdoors, building, and management. I didn’t like the thought of being inside nonstop without having varied work experience.”
Of course, the working environment isn’t the only way that careers in construction provide daily variation. “No two projects are ever the same,” one Midwest construction client told us. “Each one has different challenges, different issues to solve, and different parts that work out seamlessly without any problems.” These challenges are incredibly fulfilling for construction professionals to navigate and learn from. That client continued, “Every part of your personal skill set will get better in the construction industry, from personal initiative to communication, leadership, time management, and analytical and technical skills.”
And as any construction employee knows, construction is all about the team you work with. Another Midwest construction client noted, “I love the teamwork that it takes to make a project successful from the first concept until the project is complete.”
The Rewards of a Career in Construction are Tangible
Construction is unlike any other industry due to the physical and permanent mark it can leave on communities. Dubac’s Midwest construction client summed it up this way: “A career in the construction industry is tangible. You can see the results of your work; oftentimes, you can see it on a daily basis! I can always drive by a property or a building project, and can say that I helped build that project, that building, and can remember the good times (and sometimes…the bad) about every project.”
That sense of pride also comes from the knowledge that careers in construction allow employees to serve their communities. “I get a lot of satisfaction from building new environments for people,” Nichols’ Director of Construction client told us. “To be a leader of a team of professionals who can take a vision and make it a reality is very gratifying. Many of the projects that I have been a part of building have provided shelter, recreation, safe harbors, and sanctuary for thousands of people and will do so for years to come.”
In addition to serving communities with functional, beautiful spaces, construction professionals often get to work directly with owners. According to Dubac’s Midwest construction client, “There is just great satisfaction and pride in making the building process as easy and non-stressful to owners as it can possibly be. It is also an indescribably good feeling when the project is all complete and you can just feel the excitement coming from the owners.”
So is it any wonder that those who are lucky enough to build a career in construction feel passionately about advocating for the next generation of workers to join the industry? These careers provide interesting and challenging work, above-average wages and job stability, and a feeling of pride in what you can accomplish. What does a career in construction really mean? For Goodrum’s heavy civil client, it’s very simple: “It means everything. I should have retired 15 years ago, but I love what I do.”