One solution to the shortage of skilled workers? Diversify the construction industry.

other programs, such as powerful In Birmingham, Ala., we try to encourage, educate and place women in the construction professions. Kathleen Culhane, president of Non-Traditional Employment for Women, or NAI, which has been training women for jobs in construction and other trades since 1978, said that the organization’s partners in trade unions now open their jobs for new graduates. 15 percent of the slot is set aside. (That was about 10 percent five years ago.)

In the early ’80s, women could not be able to find work, tools in hand, and work at a construction site, Ms Culhane said. Despite progress, she said, there is still work to be done, especially in providing access to these “sustainable, family-sustaining careers” for women of color. According to New, women still fill just 3 percent of “hands on tools” jobs (as opposed to management and administrative jobs) in the construction industry.

To rectify those disparities, other programs target younger audiences, when stereotypes about who can work in construction can be reduced. The Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, established in 1993, shares construction skills and training with approximately 20,000 students in 175 elementary and secondary schools across the state. In districts that fully adopt this program, students face construction learning from second grade, which includes thematic lesson plans in math and science classes, and even apprenticeship programs in high school. To help the students to graduate in the field with a job.

“We are building the bridge between industry and academia, and all genders and ethnicities are able to try it,” said Zack Fields, the foundation’s vice president.

Actively opening up the construction industry to a wider range of people will increase the pool of recruits, giving them more opportunities to train to take on in-demand positions. But it will not be a silver bullet. Better wages, labor standards and benefits will also help attract more workers to longer-term careers in skilled trades, especially when wages are rising for jobs requiring less training.

Andrew Garin, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois, said the overall economic data does not point to a shortage of workers building infrastructure as much as a shortage of workers.

“Certainly, I can say that there is a dearth of cheap Ferraris,” he said, adding that policymakers should understand that the industry needs training programs with better incentives.

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