Early Introduction to Construction Industry Helps Guide Industry Careers

Conversations with high school students and guidance counselors can direct the next generation of workers to these lucrative occupations

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Adobe Stock/Matthew Benoit

A year ago we sat down with Brittany Bainum, founder of Tradeworthy Jobs, who shared her philosophy and approach to recruitment and how a little recognition can go a long way. In this article, we hear from Bainum again on how in the past year, she and her team have collaborated with more than 100 high school counselors, career advisors and principals across the state of Ohio. And what they’ve learned might surprise you.

Why are high schoolers on the top of your target list when it comes to connecting students to careers in construction?

It’s no secret there is a significant talent and labor shortage impacting the construction industry. According to the National Association of Home Builders, there are 300,000 openings and one of their recent surveys found that 85% of employers cited labor as their number one issue as they headed into 2021. Also, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average construction laborer makes $42,000/year. Retail employment, as a point of comparison, which could very well be where a non-college bound student might find employment, is at an average of $30,940. 

People need jobs and companies need employees - so why is there such a disconnect? Of course there are several factors that impact the shortage - but a major factor, we believe, is a lack of awareness and education. It is the industry's responsibility to recruit, engage and educate to create the next generation of trade workers - but who has time to do that on top of their normal crazy schedule? Tradeworthy Job’s approach to reach the up and comers of the industry is through their high school guidance and career counselors. 

In the last year your team has taken a grassroots approach to reach high school students interested in a career in construction. What was your approach? 

Long story short, there are a plethora of jobs and money to be made in the construction industry and we've found a unique approach to recruiting directly from high schools. Educating the future workforce of the benefits of a trade career and arming those in charge of guiding those students with the knowledge and information is key. Aside from the student’s parents, high school seniors spend a lot of time with guidance and career counselors mapping out what’s next for them following graduation. If college or the military aren’t in their plans, likely they will be looking to jump start their career - and why not a career in construction? Our approach is simple: connect with the counselors, provide them the tools and talking points to pass down to the students and continue to build and nurture the relationship.

What are you hearing from the counselors?

Since we began to prioritize our communications efforts with school counselors, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with more than 100 of them from across the state of Ohio (where Tradeworthy Jobs is HQed). From rural to inner city to suburban - the districts overwhelmingly are all saying the same thing - they know careers in construction can be rewarding and lucrative but they aren’t sure where to start to guide the students down that path. We are also hearing from many that there’s a need for apprenticeships and post-graduation careers and counselors are also struggling where to start. They also are longing for local partnerships with construction companies - but again, aren't sure where to start. That’s where YOU have the opportunity to come in.

How did you research and determine the high schools and counselors you wanted to form a relationship?

In a truly grassroots approach we simply built a list - we considered all districts around us (or in your case the districts around your sites - inner city, rural, suburban, trade schools, etc). Remember to expand your list - cast a wider net than you think as potential employees are willing to drive! Once the districts have been identified, research the appropriate contact which can include guidance counselor, career counselor or principal. 

How do you form and nurture a relationship with these contacts?

Once your contacts have been collected, determine what it is you want to share with them - do you have apprenticeships or internships, maybe you offer job shadowing, could you participate in upcoming career fairs. Consider all you could potentially offer and then reach out to them - we found via email is the best first touchpoint. Aside from sharing what you’re able to offer, the best thing you can do is LISTEN: ask what they need. Truly our greatest opportunities and conversations came from listening, collaborating and brainstorming. Also, it’s important to remember to treat this relationship as you would a client - be proactive, be positive and be helpful.

What are three things our readers can do this summer to prepare for a conversation with high school guidance counselors in their area in the fall?

Yes! Don’t wait until the fall, begin making your plan now. 

  1. Determine what it is you (or your company) is able to offer. Perhaps you don’t have a formal apprenticeship or internship program - no problem. Could you possibly offer one-day job shadowing or a ridealong to a site? Perhaps you could offer the counselor to help review resumes or be a guest speaker during a career day. The things you suggest truly don’t need to be massive, time-intensive offerings - but rather just a way to get your foot in the door and offer your services. 

  2. Once you have your “offerings'' determined, research the districts and counselors. Build the list now so once school is ramping up you’ll be able to conduct your outreach.

  3. We recommend reaching out perhaps a week or so BEFORE school starts - or a few weeks AFTER school starts. The first couple weeks of school are always a crazy time, so in an effort not to get lost in the shuffle of back-to-school, either message a week or so before school starts or once things are more settled in.

Finally, it’s no secret high school students are one of the biggest user groups of social media. How are you incorporating digital media into your outreach?

Great question. Social media is truly one of the most powerful tools out there - especially when it comes to reaching high school students. We definitely leverage social media into our approach - both organically and paid. Tradeworthy Jobs can currently be found on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. The important thing to remember with social media is that as a result of platform algorithms, paid content is always going to outperform any type of organic content - in which case that comes down to budget. That said, even having a presence on social media - whether paid or not is still important.

With more than 15 years in the construction industry serving in a variety of HR leadership roles, and a rooted understanding of the challenges connecting construction employers to potential employees, Brittany launched Tradeworthy Jobs - an app and web-based platform dedicated to bridging that gap because of construction employers and candidates.