High school students experiencing virtual reality during a McCarthy-hosted ACE Mentoring event. ACE Mentoring introduces junior and seniors to careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

CRE Opinion

Texas’ Future Workforce Needed to Save Long-Standing and Booming Industry

McCarthy Building Companies Operations SVP says the construction industry needs more women.

Decades ago, unions fell out of favor, then schools stopped offering shop classes, and then there was a push to attain white-collar jobs, and students should go to college–whether they had the aptitude or interest for college or not. Together, these factors reshaped the U.S. workforce and significantly impacted many industries.

Nate Kowallis

The construction industry across the country has been experiencing a labor gap for years, which is compounded by a large part of the workforce reaching retirement age and the lack of experienced tradespeople and professionals to fill the gap. This issue is especially heightened in Texas with its continued strong economy and pull of laborers to the oil and gas industry.

McCarthy Building Companies is actively trying to solve the labor shortage issue. First, by providing craft labor training on the job via our proprietary training program to ensure new laborers are appropriately trained, which includes a mobile training unit that teaches and assesses skills at the job site.

McCarthy also conducts school and student group outreach to ensure the future workforce is aware of career paths the industry offers–from fieldwork and estimating to Virtual Design and Construction (which uses technologies like VR, AR, and drones)–and the success that they can have both long term and financially. During our discussions with students, many will comment that they were not even aware that a career path in construction is an option or that they can be successful. They are not mindful that construction has a strong safety program, that we use technology, and that it pays so well. Bringing this awareness to the students has drawn more of them to choose a four-year degree in construction or, in some cases joining a company right out of high school.

However, the industry can only do so much to educate students on how they can use their interests and talents within construction. School districts, educators, counselors, and parents must encourage all students to explore STEM and introduce them to a variety of career opportunities, including those in construction.

Some students may be interested in learning a trade, which is an area of huge need right now. Most trade positions, including carpenter, welder, pipefitter, plumber, electrician, etc. can be attained without a four-year degree, and people in these roles can also move into a management position like a superintendent. Others may head to college for engineering, construction science, and construction technology-related degrees.

Further, the construction industry needs more women–not only to help fill the labor gap but to provide a diversity of thought on approach to and challenges of a project. At McCarthy, we recognize that the recruitment, retention, and development of women into the construction industry is an opportunity that we can’t afford to ignore.

To encourage females in the company, we instituted a national resource group called McCarthy Partnership for Women, which is designed to develop and support a company culture where the best women in the industry want to come, stay, and grow in their careers.

To directly impact the pipeline of women pursuing a career in construction, we are working together with area schools and industry organizations to introduce the variety of construction job opportunities to girls starting as early as middle school and continuing through high school and college via various outreach and mentoring programs. Further, early discussion with families about career opportunities in construction needs to happen to help dispel the myth that women cannot be successful in the construction industry.

The current and future state of the construction industry, the progress of development and the economy, and the ability to build Dallas rest in filling the labor gap. The importance of encouraging students–males and females–to consider the opportunities in our busy industry needs to be explored by educators, parents, and young people. An exciting and rewarding career awaits.

Nate Kowallis is the Senior Vice President, Operations for McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

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