In survey after survey, contractors’ greatest challenge has been finding enough qualified applicants for job openings. October’s unemployment rates for the construction industry were near an all-time low. This is despite the fact that pay climbed by 5.4% over the previous year to $36.64 / hour, according to the AGC. Openings have far exceeded hiring, showing that employers aren’t finding qualified applicants.
We Must Increase Interest In Construction Careers
Our article “Revolutionizing Labor in the Construction Business” touched on some of the contributing challenges, including the pandemic and lack of participation by women.
Finding ways to encourage young people to go into construction has been at the core of what the group “unCommon Construction” does. They give high school kids a chance to learn real-world skills while learning to build a house. According to their website:
At unCommon Construction, youth from different high schools apply to join a diverse team to earn hourly pay and school internship credit for building a house in a semester. With the revenue from each project, apprentices also earn a matching “Equity Award Scholarship” for further education, industry certifications or the tools needed for long-term employment. Through more than 100 hours each semester, apprentices develop career awareness and exposure, technical, soft skills, and leadership abilities through a work-based learning experience in a real-world classroom.*
Employer surveys for the industry not only show frustration at not finding qualified applicants but also with hires who don’t show up for work at all. Showing up late, disappearing during work hours, and apathy are all problems in the industry.
unCommon not only works to teach students the skills needed to do the job, but they also focus on “soft skills” – like showing up on time, taking feedback and interpersonal skills.
…unCommon’s student constructors, more than 300 thus far, have had their hands in building 15 houses, earning not only high school credit while doing so but collectively more than $350,000 in pay. Revenue from each project matches apprentice earnings funding equity award scholarships that will further the student’s education and/or career opportunities.*
All Roads Don’t Have to Lead to College
Founder Aaron Frumin dropped out of the University of California at Davis in his junior year. Hurricane Katrina had been in the news. He thought of donating to the Red Cross but ended up going to New Orleans as a volunteer for three weeks. After that, he ended up working construction in the Reno-Tahoe area and loved the work. A short time later, he signed up with AmeriCorps, and worked with several nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity.
Through the process of building houses with inexperienced laborers, he gained skills and speed with the process. AmeriCorps gave him an education award and Frumin finished his undergraduate degree. He taught briefly in a Colorado middle school but decided that the classroom wasn’t working for him or for his students.
The unCommon Revelation
Putting his diverse experiences together to create a better way to mentor young people and teach them real-world skills came together in his vision for unCommon Construction.
Through building houses, the students have to solve math and geometry problems. They learn about budgets and logistics. They learn how to work together on a diverse team toward a common goal.
unCommon is approaching the need for skilled construction workers in a very positive way that has produced some very tangible results. unCommon has been recognized by Forbes, People, and the Mike Rowe Works Foundation and many others.
Interested in learning more about unCommon Construction? Visit https://uncommonconstruction.org/.