With the years-long labor shortage and the recent reauthorization of the Perkins Act a renewed effort to strengthen career and technical education is making headlines. I hope this will make a difference and start to bring in the next generation of workers for the construction industry. It has got me thinking.
From my own personal experience, I always associated career and technical education with college-aged students. That's likely where most of it is taking place. But from my research over the past few years it's clear that many schools, cities and contractors are trying to introduce younger students at the high school level to career and technical education and introduce the possiblities of a career in the trades.
Both of these are great methods, but reaching out to young adults and even high school students might not be enough. While many kids at those ages still don't know what they want to do with their lives or what career they may want to pursue, they may also already have the impression that construction is not a good or respectable career. It's hard to change perceptions at those ages and to get young adults to try something new.
Our local summer school is currently in session, and one of the classes offered at the elementary level (first through fourth grade) is a Lego class. At first I thought, "what kind of class is that for summer school?" But the more I think about it from the construction stand point, the more I like it. Legos may be toys, but they could also be a great way to introduce younger kids to building and the world of construction - and maybe even get them excited about wanting to work in the construction industry when they get bigger.
I'm not just talking about having kids play with the construction themed Legos. The more I think about a Lego summer school class the more possibilities I see. It gets kids building; it gets them thinking about how to build and what materials they will need. It helps them problem solve when they might not have what they need or if their original building plan isn't working. It lets them flex their creative muscles. And in a classroom setting it can even introduce kids to working and building together with a team.
Now I know that real construction isn't like playing and building with Legos, but instilling an attitude that building can be fun is a great start, and I think a good way to reach kids who are still impressionable and open to a world of possibilities for their future - like a career in construction.
The more I think about it, the more I think this could be a great opportunity for contractors. I'm not saying go volunteer to teach a class at your local summer school. But contractors could hold their own Lego building class. Maybe a once-a-month Lego building class or club hosted by your construction company could be a possibility. Invite kids in and challenge them to build something different every meeting. Give them the freedom to build what they choose or give them challenges like build a building from your town or what can you build with a certain number of blocks or in a certain workspace or time frame. They can build alone; they can build in teams. And then, find a way to relate what they are doing and the fun they are having to real life construction work or career and technical education classes that are available as they get older.
I'm not saying this is a sure fire way to get kids interested in construction, but it seems like a great opportunity to reach kids who have a love for building and instill a positive image of a career in construction.
What do you think?
Could Legos be an effective tool to eventually bring new workers to the construction industry?