October 14, 2021
In July, the number of unfulfilled jobs in construction was at a staggering 321,000, according to Sisson, writer of The New York Times. So who can help solve this situation and how? One way is through the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Biden administration estimates that it could add two million jobs per year if this bill passes, says Sisson. That sounds like an easy solution, but Sisson claims that it is hard to fulfill an industry that is already experiencing labor shortages, so industry leaders must consider other solutions.
Industry leaders believe another solution is by diversifying the workforce. The construction industry has not been diverse as it could be, and Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, reveals that “traditionally, heavy industries have not been diverse.” For example, “according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 9.9% of construction professionals in this country are women. When it comes to race, just 6% are Black and only 2% are Asian,” states Steve Kraske, host of KCUR’s Up To Date.
One might wonder how the construction industry is not diverse. Whoever wants to work in construction can go through schooling and training, then get in the field, right? It is not that simple. To have a more diverse and inclusive workforce, the construction industry must focus on underrepresented groups. And Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia are already doing this through training programs. Project JumpStart, a pre-apprenticeship program, has trained more than 800 individuals, most of whom were incarcerated. Another program is Power UP, and it focuses on encouraging, educating, and placing women in construction trades, explains Sisson. Indeed, working towards a more inclusive workforce not only fills the unfulfilled roles, but it will also improve the workforce. Boyd Worsham, the president of the National Center for Construction Education and Research, states, “Different life experiences and different ways of looking at things can apply to the work.”
Nina Nguyen // CIRB Journalism Intern