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Breaking new ground on career development in construction

When most people think of a career in construction, they envision well-worn tool belts, steel-toed boots, and extended tape measures. While these images do readily align with construction activities, construction itself begins long before workers arrive on site and heavy equipment rolls up. There’s many other sides to the construction industry that most don’t see – sides filled with tremendous opportunity for people with a variety of skills and interests.

April Parsley, Vice President of Corporate Marketing for F.A. Wilhelm Construction, said that one of the largest drivers adding new roles to the construction industry is technology. “As a result of new automation, programs and methodologies evolving the way buildings come together, new skills sets are needed to meet rising demands,” Parsley said. “In addition, the need for ever more sustainable buildings and building practices is generating great demand for creative innovation.

The building industry is well known for employing trade-skilled laborers. What is lesser known is that it also employs graphic designers, software developers, modelers, artisans, engineers, productivity experts, and marketers. There are many opportunities for people in professional and managerial roles in areas such as construction management, operations, accounting and business development. Parsley noted that companies are always looking for people interested in quality assurance and safety management, as well as LEAN and productivity improvement management which involves evaluating processes and building better efficiencies into them.

Today’s construction environment has something to offer everyone. From team collaboration, to skill building, to good pay, to travel opportunities, to longevity of work, building buildings is akin to building a career. Whether individuals are recent graduates, still in college, or looking to change direction, this “learn as you go” industry is a good place to start, and there are many avenues in including internships, entry-level positions, apprenticeships, traineeships, higher education programs and work experience.

In addition to being professionally rewarding, construction careers can be personally rewarding as well. When individuals connect with the purpose of what is being built and how lives are positively impacted by the project, it promotes a true sense of accomplishment. Parsley described the feeling this way: “It’s kind of like the joy you feel when you drive by the old house where your best memories were made. When you drive by a new hospital or research facility that you helped build – a place where the community gathers to heal and care for each other – it fills your heart.”

Parsley wants to encourage more people to explore careers in the construction industry. She, like other leaders in her industry, knows that with a rapidly aging workforce, with the skills the industry needs is going to become much more difficult over the next ten years.

Wilhelm is already working to fill this need with proactive recruiting and partnering with high schools, colleges, and other organizations to help students learn about and become more engaged in the construction industry in conjunction with their academic pursuits.

Phil Kenney, Wilhelm’s President said that it’s not enough to just get new people into the industry – it’s also important to keep them. “We need to think about retention and what we can do to help them succeed,” Kenney said. He emphasized the need for executive-level professionals in the industry to work with people in the early stages of their careers to provide mentoring, “showing them the ropes.”

People entering the construction industry can expect longevity in their career. According to Parsley, “There’s never going to be an end to people needing spaces to do what they do. While construction will evolve the way work is done, there will always be work to do.”

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