Guide for Parents: Learning More About Minnesota’s Construction Industry

College? Military service? How about a career in Minnesota’s construction trades?

If you’re a parent, the future of your children is always one of your top priorities.
Two major components of young adults’ futures are their education and what they might do for a career one day. Ensuring that young people get the knowledge, skills and opportunities to explore careers is part of the process of transitioning to independent adults.

For teenagers in high school, parents, counselors and educators play a crucial role in helping them explore career options and deciding if college, the military or a registered apprenticeship with one of Minnesota’s construction trades unions is best for them.

Minnesota Trades Academy is one of Construction Career Pathways’ programs that provides students hands-on opportunities to learn the basics of construction. PC: Emily Sweeney

Helping Parents Help Their Young Adults

In helping your teenager prepare for their future, there are numerous considerations:

  • What are they good at?
  • What do they enjoy doing?
  • Can they find a job doing those things?
  • How much will that job pay?
  • Will that job be safe?
  • How much will the education required for that job cost?

    These questions may be simple on the surface but answering them can be overwhelming. You’ve almost certainly heard the notion that going to college is the only way for people to find their way to a successful career. This idea has been ingrained in our culture and school systems for decades.

While getting a college degree is certainly a positive goal to strive for and a potential pathway to a great career, it is not the only option that young people have to position themselves for success.

Consider a Career in Construction

For years, working in construction has been framed as not much more than dirty, dangerous hard labor that requires little skill and thus is a dead-end or last resort job. It’s time to start thinking differently.

In the construction industry, craft professionals are highly skilled and in high demand – and they make good money. The industry is safer than ever before, and the opportunities for career advancement are nearly limitless.

If parents want to help their teens to fully explore all of the potential paths to success, they should consider visiting the ConstructionCareers.org website and the Construction Trades free mobile app to discover more about careers in construction.

High Demand for Skilled Professionals

The construction industry is facing a massive workforce crisis, with an estimated shortage of more than 1 million craft professionals by 2023. The problem is projected to get worse, as 41% of the current construction workforce will retire within the next 11 years.

Why the shortage? As more people decide to go to college, fewer people are pursuing careers that don’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree and fewer still are exposed to the variety of careers and growth opportunities in Minnesota’s construction industry.
Luckily, demand means opportunities. With lots of jobs available, skilled craft professionals are easily able to find training and work, and with that comes some additional benefits.

Safer than Ever Before

When a teenager expresses interest in going into construction, there is often hesitancy by parents about safety on a construction site.

“Construction is perceived as having dangerous, unsafe working conditions,” Stuart said. “This concept is often portrayed in movies and depicts an inaccurate image of the kinds of work, safety precautions and training required for the job in real life.”

For example, on job sites where union construction professionals work, safety is the highest priority. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is required on every job site – such as eye, ear, hand, and foot protection, and the iconic hard hat. More specialized PPE such as harnesses are required for anyone doing elevated work.

Extensive training is also a key part of creating safe working conditions for today’s construction workers. The creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971 has been an asset in setting standards for safety training and the establishment of standardized procedures and requirements across the industry. Daily safety talks at the jobsite help to remind and emphasize the importance of awareness, cleanliness and proper working techniques.

Improving technology is also playing a hand in improving construction safety. Drones and virtual or augmented reality systems help construction teams detect potential hazards early and examine them without threat. These forms of technology can evaluate working conditions before workers even arrive at the site.

Good Pay; No College Debt

With finances having a major impact on happiness, stress and overall quality of life, it’s important that your teen’s future career is able to support them.

According to a 2019 Construction Dive article, “Construction Salaries and Wages, Ranked,” the average base salary for almost 30 different crafts exceeded $55,000 annually. When adding in overtime, travel and other potential incentives, it’s possible for skilled workers to earn six figures.

Good wages are only part of the financial pluses of working in the construction industry, though. Because most construction careers do not require a bachelor’s degree, craft professionals don’t have to worry about accumulating thousands of dollars in college debt.

Through an apprenticeship, trainees are instructed by experienced construction professionals and split time between a classroom setting and on-the-job learning.

“Rather than pay for their own education, construction trades apprentices actually can earn while they learn, being paid for the work they do during their time in the field,” said Mary Stuart, Associate Director for the Construction Careers Foundation. “After about four years (8,000 hours) of experience and training, craft professionals can attain journeyperson status. With every step in the career comes additional pay and benefits.”

By earning more money, sooner after high school, and with no massive debts, young craft professionals take ownership of their financial lives much earlier compared to many of their peers of the same age. In addition, apprentices receive health insurance and are eligible for a pension plan.

“Many of our Success Stories feature young apprentices who talk about being able to afford a home or a nice vehicle, much earlier in life than their friends because of their career choice,” Stuart said. “These financial achievements are realistic when working in the trades.”

Construction Makes a Difference

We all want to make a positive impact. But compared to previous generations, Gen Z takes this desire to another level.

While other age groups prefer compensation as their driving factor, around 45% of Gen-Zers want to work for a company that makes a positive difference, and are often will to make sacrifices in their paycheck in order to participate.

“Every project a craft professional works on has meaning,” Stuart said. “Across the board, trades workers take pride in their work, remember their projects and literally change and develop Minnesota’s landscape every day.”

The construction industry also has a hand in most of the economy. The roads, the offices, the factories, the power plants, the homes – construction is responsible for all of that. Green energy solutions such as wind turbines and solar facilities don’t get built without heavy equipment operators and laborers. Life-saving hospitals and life-changing schools don’t get built without carpenters and ironworkers and masons.

“Construction has long been overlooked as a viable or desirable career path,” Stuart said. “But the reality is that working in construction can be an exciting and rewarding career. For parents wanting to help their children explore all the options for their future, the skilled crafts deserve your consideration.”

Are you or your teens interested in learning more about careers in construction? Visit ConstructionCareers.org to learn more about careers in construction and our trades programs for students.