Meeting the 'Construction Challenge'

While the economic challenge of maintaining this nation's infrastructure is staggering, with U.S. government estimates putting the total cost of modernizing this country's water systems, dams, runways, roads and bridges at nearly $1.6 trillion over a five-year period, finding enough workers to support the current and future demands of the construction industry is as equally significant.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) announced a new program earlier this year - the Construction Challenge - to not only introduce teenagers to opportunities the construction industry presents, but to more importantly create a greater awareness required to meet the projected shortfall of qualified construction workers.

The Construction Challenge will culminate at the upcoming ConExpo-CON/AGG 2008 trade show in Las Vegas, where 60 regional winning teams are expected to compete in a variety of challenges, including head-to-head debates, a hands-on task related to a construction solution and a science-fair type competition.

Creating an increased awareness of the construction industry's workforce needs, coupled with better understanding of the construction career opportunities that await teenagers, will only help foster a greater appreciation for the value the construction industry provides in maintaining a quality infrastructure and a strong economy.

Contractors from all industry segments and the industry in general realize a variety of solutions will be required to meet the ongoing recruitment demands of a robust construction industry. Many construction firms have and continue to use local and regional recruitment venues, like employment fairs, or other initiatives, like apprenticeships and school-sponsored programs, to generate interests among young people who are searching for a career path. Those efforts need to continue and more contractors need to take an active role in developing their future workforce.

Programs like the Construction Challenge are commendable because they encourage high school students to consider the possibilities a construction career has to offer and, more importantly, they encourage young people to become part of the solution.

But the efforts of an organized program like the Construction Challenge must become a grassroots effort for all who are involved in the construction industry. Construction companies, who are passionate about what they do and the value of what they provide, must lead the charge in developing the workforce of tomorrow. Join forces on a local, regional or state level to work with educational institutions in developing programs that not only increase the career opportunities your industry has to offer, but also emphasize the important role the industry plays in supporting a strong economy and better life for all of us. Take on the challenge!

For more information on AEM's Construction Challenge, go to www.ConstructionChallenge.org.

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