What do parole officers, Protestant ministers, philosophers, and bookbinders have in common?
They all ranked above construction workers in a list of most desirable occupations, as judged by factors such as work environment, income, and physical demands. In fact, construction labor ranked 244th out of 250 professions in the most recent edition of the Jobs Rated Almanac, trailing stevedores and roofers, but beating out fishermen and lumberjacks.
Construction leaders are familiar with such reports, and acknowledge they’ve had a long-standing image problem. That sour aura, though, appears to belie a different economic reality: Work is plentiful in the industry, and will continue to be, if federal economic projections are on target.
Luring reluctant youths into an oft-maligned career is a top goal of business and education leaders in Oklahoma, who hope to build that workforce through the creation of academies aimed at training workers in construction and design fields. With the help of a state and business coalition known as the Construction Education Program, the first academy will open in the fall at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center, a career-oriented school in Oklahoma City. The program will eventually serve students in grades 10-12, who can enter the workforce after graduation or attend two- or four-year colleges.
Oklahoma officials hope to establish a second academy by next year, possibly in Tulsa, with others to follow.
“The design and construction industry is an aging workforce,” said Carla High, the director of the Tuttle campus where the construction program will be located. “There’s a huge shortage of workers.”
Alisha Hyslop, the assistant director of public policy for the Association of Career and Technical Education, in Alexandria, Va., said construction-themed programs have become relatively common, as industry demands have grown. Tuttle’s program will use a nationally recognized curriculum that blends core academics with job skills recommended by experts in the field—an essential feature of making such academies work, Ms. Hyslop said.
“Curriculum that’s developed without any input from industry lacks some credibility,” she said.