During October, we celebrate Careers in Construction Month! The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) designation aims to increase awareness of the opportunities and rewards available in the skilled trades. Five cities and one county in the our HBA footprint are issuing proclamations, while The Greater Iowa City Area HBA Vocational Training Council (VTC) continues to engage and encourage youth to enter the high-demand industry.
The following Eastern Iowa cities/county have or are scheduled to proclaim October as Careers in Construction Month: Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Tipton, Washington and Johnson County. “These proclamations are key as it’s important that students, parents and schools hear from our elected officials that a career in construction is essential to our communities and economy,” said VTC President Tim Ruth of McCreedy-Ruth Construction.
Residential construction is helping lead the COVID-19 economic recovery, as low interest rates and pent-up demand for homes puts it in a position to recover more quickly than some sectors. The construction industry employs more than 7.4 million individuals in the United States, according to the Home Builders Institute (2021 report). In Iowa, construction contributed $7.9 billion of the economy or 4.1 percent of the state’s GDP (Associated General Contractors of America, 2020). Despite its size, the construction field has a shortfall of 309,000 workers, with 60 percent of builders reporting an employee shortage (Home Builders Institute, 2021 report).
“Workforce development is critical to shrinking the labor gap, and young people are at the center of it. Construction is a great career, and every school in Iowa should recognize that and be teaching skilled trades. If they did, kids would be introduced to it, find it’s something that they like to do, learn it’s a career option and explore it,” said Ruth. “I owe my career to a high school shop class. The importance of a high school Industrial Technology course is far greater than most people give it credit.”
Greater Iowa City Area HBA President GT Karr with Sueppel’s Siding & Remodeling notes the benefits of working in the skilled trades include little to no school-loan debt and competitive compensation. “Many skilled-trades employers offer paid training and internships allowing immediate access to good-paying jobs without going into debt,” said Karr. “Area employers also offer tuition reimbursement and scholarships for trade professionals who wish to further their careers by attending certified programs at Kirkwood Community College.”
NAHB notes that the top 25 percent in most construction-trades professions earn at least $60,000 annually. Additionally, the gender pay gap is smaller in the construction trades. On average, women in the United States earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Women in the construction industry earn 99 cents for every dollar a man is paid, per The National Association of Women in Construction.
“The VTC aims to support area schools by offering programs that introduce students to careers in construction through hands-on experiences,” said Karr. Examples include three award-winning programs: Student-Built House (high school); Architecture-Construction-Engineering (ACE) Student Remodel (high school); and Build My Future (junior high). Its 2021 student-remodel project earned a Corridor Business Journal Workforce Leaders award in the category of Existing Employment Needs (Small Company). The VTC has also received two grants this year to support its programs: Future Ready Iowa ($5,000) and Washington County Riverboat Foundation ($5,000). Money was used to create a Mobile Construction Lab that houses tools to outfit 20 total students simultaneously.
Additionally, The Greater Iowa City Area HBA’s NAHB student chapter, Durant High School, won a grant last summer to continue developing its Industrial Technology program. Other NAHB Student Chapters The Greater Iowa City Area HBA sponsors are: Clear Creek Amana Community School District, Kirkwood Washington County Regional Center, Tipton High School and Kirkwood Community College (cosponsor).