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Changing the Perception of a Career in the Craft Trades

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The following article was authored by Chuck Gremillion, Executive Director of the Construction Career Collaborative.

One of the questions that I am often asked when I speak to folks in the commercial construction industry about our work at Construction Career Collaborative is “When is C3 going to begin recruiting kids coming out of high school?”  It is frequently followed by the observation that not everyone is meant for college and surely the young people who choose not to pursue a college degree would be interested in a career in the craft trades of the construction industry. My response is not necessarily so, at least not yet.

As I wrote in my most recent post, it is time for the construction industry to change the perception of a career in the craft trades to “sustainable, successful and safe” from “dirty, dangerous and dead end.” That is a generational task.

While there are many construction companies who today provide excellent career opportunities, the industry as a whole is hurt by the negative perception that has been created by those companies whose workforce practices perpetuate this negative image. This is the image that currently exists in the minds of most high schoolers, their parents and school counselors. The fact that we pushed college for every high school graduate over the last two generations contributed to the current status. But that is changing and C3 is one of the ways we are getting the positive message out to the schools and potential workforce.

C3’s strategy is simple. The commercial construction industry needs to look at and follow the lead of other successful industries. We must treat our craft workers as valued assets, as employees, and not independent subcontractors. We must teach them to work skillfully with craft training programs linked to a career path, which enables them to earn a healthy living and live a prosperous life.  And very importantly, we must continuously provide our craft workers the training to work safely.

Once commercial construction companies, in large numbers, adopt workforce practices that are competitive with other industries, the conversation with students, parents and counselors will change. That change has begun in the companies who are members of C3. As that occurs, the perception of a career in the craft trades will too. C3 has a strategy to make that change a reality.

If you or your company is interested in learning more about how C3 can help your organization, please contact me, or my colleague, Angela Murphy.  We welcome the opportunity to speak with you.