Laura Cosgriff gets daily phone calls from local contractors looking for students to employ — and the frequency of those calls has increased in recent years.
The construction technology coordinator for Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, said the volume of calls is so high she’s developed a canned response and an email format to respond to employers, telling them she’ll share the job posting with her associate’s degree or certificate students and relevant instructors.
As the industry struggles to staff jobsites, contractors have ramped up the pursuit of the next generation of builders with vigor.
For instance, construction employers increased outreach to students on Handshake, a career-finding platform focused on college students, by 46% over the past year, according to a report from the company. Employers also increased internship postings.
Barbara Lopez-Santana, 26, a recent graduate of Florida International University, had one of those internships at construction management firm Moss & Associates in Miami. That three-month stint morphed into a yearlong stay and on Monday, Lopez-Santana started her first day as a full-time employee.
Lopez-Santana came to Florida from Venezuela when she was 16, and started college in architecture before she pivoted to construction management, which she said better aligned with her passion for organization and hands-on work.
Asked why she found construction management an attractive career, Lopez-Santana said, “The simple reason is construction never stops.”
High-paying, stable jobs like those in construction attract young professionals like Lopez-Santana, Handshake reported. Applications to architecture, drafting and construction management roles rose by more than 40% on the platform in the last year.
A range of skills
The report claims that, as major tech firms like Google and Amazon lay off workers, current computer science and related majors are looking to construction as a place to start their careers. The number of applications from computer science and data science majors to construction doubled in the last year, per the report.
The industry still needs more skilled tradesworkers, but experts say those with diverse academic experiences outside of construction can help the industry move forward.
“We’re seeing an increased need for different backgrounds on projects. Finance, business analytics, virtual design and even computer science continue to add new perspectives and ideas creating opportunities on projects and in the industry as a whole,” said Matt Rosentreter, talent generation manager at Kansas City, Missouri-based architecture and construction firm Burns & McDonnell.
Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) has grown up with technology, Rosentreter noted, which means the emerging workforce has innate skills that can help complete some work faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, experienced construction professionals approaching the end of their time in construction can pass down the vital building knowledge they have to Gen Z workers entering the industry from different academic backgrounds.
Most members of Gen Z value diversity, an area where construction lags.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that in 2022, 10.9% of construction employees were women, 6.7% were Black and 2.1% were Asian. Hispanic employees make up more than 30% of construction workers, though often in the field where there is less opportunity for advancement, Handshake’s report notes.
Nonetheless, 36% of Handshake applicants to construction jobs are women, according to the report.
Cosgriff has noticed a slight shift in this area, saying there were often no women in LCCC classes. This summer, one of her students did a work-based learning experience through a small, women-owned company.
“There were only women in the room,” Cosgriff said. “Normally, when I go to a work-based learning site, I’m the only woman in the room.”