Statistics about talent shortages have dominated the headlines in recent years, particularly in the construction industry. Baby Boomers are retiring, widening gaps in worker availability. At the same time, the demand for construction is getting stronger, as communities grow and existing facilities and infrastructure age. How do we address the challenge?
With a stated interest in building strong communities, Meyer Najem is engaging in several avenues that address the demand for construction talent by connecting people with opportunities.
Promoting the construction industry to future generations
Construction companies like Meyer Najem are making a concerted effort to reach out to students and educate them about careers in the industry.
“A lot of people think, ‘it’s college or bust,’ but that perception is changing,” said Ryan Soots, Meyer Najem executive vice president. “High school students are learning there are options other than a four- or six-year degree. For example, you can make a great living if you become a mason or an electrician.”
To that end, Meyer Najem is working with ACE Mentor Program, an afterschool program making a difference in future workforce development. An acronym for architecture, construction, and engineering, ACE Mentor program engages, excites, and enlightens high school students to pursue careers in the industry through mentorship and support.
In addition, partnerships between contractors and high schools’ trade programs provide opportunities for internships and mentorships that introduce students to construction.
Providing a new career path for our nation’s veterans
Construction also creates an opportunity for veterans as they embark on the next chapters of their careers.
“Serving in the military equips veterans with abilities that can translate well to the process of construction,” Soots said. “Training them in project management or trades can help address our industry’s need for skilled workers.”
For example, in Jacksonville, Operation New Uniform empowers veterans to successfully transition from military service to a purposeful career through training, resources, and engagement.
Changing perceptions and sharing possibilities
For many people, the phrase, “construction worker” conjures images of someone on a job site. But the industry offers a variety of options, depending on skillset and interest.
“There’s a perception that working in construction means getting your hands dirty, but there are lots of opportunities available,” Soots said. “If you’re a numbers person, estimating could be a good fit, and the only supply you pick up is a pencil. If you’re into technology, virtual design & construction is an option. If you’re a people person and enjoy bringing teams together to solve problems, you could be a great project manager.”
Soots tells people they can always learn the construction part; it comes with time. “We’re people organizers and people managers first—it’s not just about the project and materials,” he said.
Sharing the “why” of construction
Regardless of how construction opportunities are promoted, the Meyer Najem team believes the most important aspect is considering why people should pursue it as a career path.
“You could argue that construction is the heartbeat of the economy, creating roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools,” Soots said. “For me, I love the challenge of starting from nothing, building something to serve an overall goal, and getting up to hundreds of people heading in the same direction. Every day is a different challenge, and you never get bored.”
Ross Miller, Meyer Najem’s director of marketing, said being part of projects that support a bigger purpose has a strong appeal.
“Our teams are building structures that are going to impact the next several generations and improve their experience,” Miller said.
“If you look at the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, each player has skills they bring to the table,” added Jeff Blount, chief operating officer of Meyer Najem Southeast. “For contractors, we like to get things done and are natural problem solvers. There’s a satisfaction that comes from that. It truly takes a village with everyone’s talents to build stronger communities.”