Construction’s call to the next generation of leaders is louder than ever.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that, between 2003 and 2020, the percentage of construction workers aged 55 and older nearly doubled to almost 23% of the workforce. The aging population, on top of workforce shortages across construction trades, underscores the urgent need to cultivate the next generation of construction leaders.
In response to this demographic shift, initiatives and programs aimed at developing dynamic and capable young professionals – the future leaders of the industry – are gaining momentum.
Here are four ways to develop next generation construction leaders from the earliest days of their education and career so these future professionals can have the biggest impact on the industry for years to come.
- Encourage Early Education
Investing in career and technical education (CTE) programs that focus on introducing students to the opportunities available in the construction field and developing the next generation of leaders at an early stage is crucial for fostering a skilled workforce.
CTE programs play a pivotal role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills acquired through both academic and hands-on learning needed for success in specialized and technical fields. According to the U.S. Department of Education, eight years after their expected graduation date, students who focused on CTE classes were both more likely to be employed full-time in their field of study and have higher annual earnings than those who did not take CTE courses.
Eight states scored an “A” in their efforts to endorse career and technical education pathways on the Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2023 Merit Shop Scorecard. Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota scored higher than the national average in the percentage of high school graduates who were placed in college programs or careers in their industry.
Advocacy at the state-level for CTE curriculum that is approved by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), as well as company-led support for on-the-job continuing education via NCCER credentials and certifications, provides critical education that enhances recruitment and retention efforts for young workers.
- Identify and Nurture Talent
Recognizing workers who demonstrate not only technical expertise, but also strong leadership potential is key. Look for those who display initiative, problem-solving skills, and a natural ability to motivate and inspire others.
To foster leadership development, provide targeted training programs that go beyond technical competencies. Emphasize communication skills, project management and the ability to navigate complex challenges. Encourage participation in industry events, workshops and networking opportunities to broaden their perspectives and build valuable relationships.
Mentorship is a powerful tool for nurturing future leaders, that’s why the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA)’s mentor program is a key aspect of its Construction Manager-in-Training program. Pairing future leaders with experienced professionals who can offer guidance, share insights and help them navigate the nuances of the industry help ensure that knowledge and experiences are passed down to the next generation.
- Focus on Ongoing Improvement
As with any field, construction is an industry that requires its leaders to be lifelong learners. Technological innovations, changing regulations and emerging best practices require future leaders to be curious, motivated and focused on ongoing education and improvement to stay at the forefront of industry advancements.
Ongoing education also cultivates leadership qualities like adaptability, resilience and effective decision-making. As construction projects become more complex, leaders must be well-versed in diverse roles within the construction industry. This cross-training and exposure allows them to understand the intricacies of various roles, fostering a holistic view of the industry and allowing them to appreciate the work being done by others at every step in the process.
- Create a Culture for Growth
Financial goals and strategies for growth are central to a company’s success, but most will fall short without strong employee engagement, teams that are committed to shared purpose and leaders who respect and empower their people. Companies that build a strong culture attract top talent, retain key employees and nurture future leaders.
Ultimately, a culture of growth for new construction leaders involves fostering an atmosphere that values continuous improvement, embraces challenges and recognizes the importance of investing in the professional development of its emerging talent.
By investing in identifying and nurturing these talents early on, the construction industry can ensure a pipeline of capable leaders ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.
Industry Programs & Events for Next Gen Leaders
ABC's National Young Professional Program – The program’s four pillars are to develop people, win work, work safety and better the community.
CMAA’s Emerging Leaders Program – The program aims to prepare participants to take on more responsibilities and leadership within their organizations and the industry.
AGC’s Construction Leadership Council – A committee of next generation leaders who gain professional development and leadership skills to serve their local communities and on the national stage.
NSSGA’s Young Leaders Program – Open to professionals in the aggregates industry who are committed to growing professionally through knowledge and networking.
ASCE Leader Development Programs – The program prepares civil engineers to be leaders who will shape the public, environmental and infrastructure policy of tomorrow.
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