Construction-oriented jobs like sheet metal fabrication or HVAC work may never have the cache of some other high-profile careers, although the pay construction offers certainly can rival some of them.
For too long, it seems careers that required working with your hands at a job site instead of at a desk have been looked down upon by many people — including some of those who perform such work. Many sheet metal contractors have told me they hoped their children would not follow them into the industry, even though it afforded them a comfortable living.
The result has been a decades-long erosion in the numbers of students considering trades careers, whether it’s plumbing, HVAC or any number of specialties required to get buildings constructed. While there are a few different figures floating around on just how many workers are needed to fill the existing and future employment shortage, few argue that the problem isn’t real.
There has been some good news on this issue lately. TV host Mike Rowe, formerly of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” has long been an advocate for the construction industry. His nonprofit foundation promotes skilled trade careers and raises money for trade school scholarships.
The White House has also made apprenticeship training a signature issue under Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. After President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order aimed at expanding such programs, Acosta has established a task force charged with determining how to do it. Members include Associated Builders and Contractors CEO Michael Bellaman, National Urban League CEO Marc H. Morial, Sheet Metal Workers union President Joseph Sellers Jr. and actor John Ratzenberger, best known for playing “Cliff Clavin” on the NBC-TV show “Cheers.”
It will be interesting to see if these efforts have any success at filling the burgeoning numbers of available positions in all facets of construction.