Now is a Good Time to Start a Career in Construction: Demand for Construction Workers Looks Strong for Foreseeable Future

If you’re a student who is wondering about whether to pursue a career in construction, recent forecasts indicate a strong need for construction workers in both the immediate and long-term future.

The American Institute of Architects’ Consensus Construction Forecast “expects spending on nonresidential building construction to increase by 5.4 percent in 2022, and accelerate to an additional 6.1 percent increase in 2023. This same report notes that “road and highway construction is expected to reach $108 billion annually by 2024.”

Furthermore, the long-term forecast for construction workers looks just as promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 167,800 openings for construction laborers and helpers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”

“There’s never been a better time for young people to consider a career in Minnesota’s construction industry,” said Mary Stuart, Associate Director for the Construction Careers Foundation, a Twin Cities non-profit that builds bridges for young people to obtain apprenticeships in Minnesota’s construction industry. “Minnesota’s construction industry needs a new generation of young people to build Minnesota.”

Construction Provides Careers with Good Pay and Great Benefits

In addition to a strong need for construction workers for the foreseeable future, careers in construction are forecasted to pay well, too, allowing young people to build a strong financial future.

According to “Building a Strong Minnesota: An Analysis of Minnesota’s Union Construction Industry,” a research report** published in 2021 by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute:

  • Union construction workers earn hourly wages ($33 per hour) that rival workers with bachelor’s degrees ($35 per hour).
  • A typical construction worker who completes a joint labor-management program in Minnesota earns 5 percent less than the average worker with a bachelor’s degree and 32 percent more than the average worker with an associate degree in the state—without any college debt (Figure 8).

“The study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute clearly shows that young people who build a career with a Minnesota building and construction trades union can earn a good living,” said Stuart. “More importantly, they would start their careers without incurring college debt.”

Apprenticeship Enrollment in Minnesota is Increasing 

According to a 2019 report by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the number of Minnesotans enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs “has grown by 27% since 2014, making it the state’s third-largest private post-secondary educational institution.”

In its findings, the Institute noted that “88% of the state’s active apprentices are enrolled in construction programs [registered apprenticeship programs] that are jointly administered by trade unions and their signatory employers [such as construction firms].”

“Minnesota’s registered apprenticeship programs provide participants with job skills that simply cannot be learned in college,” said MEPI Policy Director Frank Manzo. “They offer tuition-free career training that boosts participant earnings by an average of $4,700 per year—nearly double the average for an associate’s degree and more than many bachelor’s degrees.”

Inform Students the Construction Trades have a Career for them

Sam Ebute, Trades Navigator for the Construction Careers Foundation works in tandem with Minnesota’s building and construction trade unions, its largest construction firms (Kraus Anderson, McGough, Mortenson, Opus, PCL, Ryan, among others), school districts and the State of Minnesota (Department of Employment and Economic Development) to help students find their way to registered construction apprenticeships.

“Students interested in apprenticeship need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED to enter most apprenticeships,” Ebute said. “However, they can begin the online or paper application process while still in high school. Many union training centers will start the students’ application files pending graduation.”

Many students start thinking about their futures after high school in their junior year. In addition to college and military service, Ebute invites high school students to consider applying for a registered apprenticeship with a Minnesota construction trade. Registered apprenticeships are typically three to five years in length and involve on-the-job instruction and classroom instruction. More importantly – you are paid while you learn and work, and by joining a trade union, young people also become eligible for other benefits, such as health and dental insurance and a retirement plan – all without incurring any college debt.

For youth, educators, apprenticeship candidates and parents interested in building a career in construction connect with Sam Ebute at sam.ebute@constructioncareers.org. 

About the Construction Careers Foundation

The Construction Careers Foundation is a Twin Cities-based nonprofit dedicated to fostering and developing construction career pathways for Minnesotans, especially young adults. With funding from the Minnesota State Legislature and oversight from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Construction Careers Foundation conducts a statewide effort to attract more people, in particular, young people, women and people of color, into the construction trades to support the Minnesota construction industry.

To learn more about the Construction Careers Foundation, visit ConstructionCareers.org.

**Building a Strong Minnesota: An Analysis of Minnesota’s Union Construction Industry,” a research report published in 2021 by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute was researched and written by Frank Manzo IV, MPP Policy Director Midwest Economic Policy Institute Jill Gigstad Midwest Researcher Midwest Economic Policy Institute Robert Bruno, Ph.D. Director Labor Education Program Project for Middle Class Renewal University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Kevin Duncan, Ph.D. BCG Economics, LLC and Distinguished University Professor, Colorado State University-Pueblo.