The construction industry is in a transformative phase with technology and innovation at its core. To keep pace, contractors must tap into the wealth of talent emerging from national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. STEM education programs are preparing the next generation of construction professionals, who will require highly technical skills like virtual reality, robotics and countless other emerging technologies. The modern construction workforce will require an innate knowledge of a vastly different set of skills than any generation that came before.
Basically, the world of construction and much of its future workforce needs will require more specialized technology skills. The good news is that a variety of national programs are working hard to train young people for these roles. This change will also help bring a new generation of workers to the industry who may have never considered construction as a career path. Let’s take a look at some of the leading programs, some starting as early as PreK, and how contractors can best prepare for this shift in workplace needs.
This partnership of students, teachers and industry ensures America has a skilled workforce. It provides educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the nation's classrooms. Their construction-focused competitions and training modules are instrumental in preparing students for real-world challenges. This program, which has served more than 14.6 million since 1965, is a proud champion of America’s skilled trades. They train graduates who are career ready on day one.
The ACE Mentor Program
ACE (Architecture, Construction and Engineering) targets high school students and aims to inspire them to pursue careers in design and construction. It's an after-school program where industry professionals mentor students and provide hands-on experience in these fields. This program serves more than 10,000 students a year, with more than 4,000 mentors who help inspire and encourage future career paths.
Project Lead The Way (PLTW)
PLTW offers transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers across the U.S. Through pathways in computer science, engineering and biomedical science, students learn problem-solving strategies, critical and creative thinking, and how to communicate and collaborate. This program uses hands-on, project-based learning to encourage creativity and real-world problem solving.
National STEM Honor Society™ (NSTEM™)
Founded in response to a need for innovative STEM education, this program aims to help fill the gap by reaching students at an early age. The program offers opportunities for students to develop their passion for STEM disciplines by inspiring them to pursue these subjects as careers and as lifelong interests. The program has a mentor program that allows professionals to share their experiences about STEM career opportunities.
These national programs, along with countless state and local STEM partnerships, help bridge the gap between theoretical STEM education and practical construction skills. They offer real-world applications of STEM subjects, showing students how their learning directly translates to construction careers.
The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP)
This project works together with organizations committed to educating and encouraging girls to pursue careers that require STEM knowledge. They offer resources to help girls – and the mentors that help them – to better understand how a STEM education can help pave any career path. The project partners with female role models who are the driving force behind all the work the project does to inspire girls.
BENEFITS TO THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
The influx of STEM-educated workers into the construction industry means more than just a well-prepared workforce. It brings fresh perspectives, innovative ideas and a stronger embrace of technology and sustainability. These young professionals are more likely to be adaptive to new construction technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM), drone technology and green building practices.
STEM Programs for Talent
National STEM education programs are essential in preparing a new generation of construction professionals. These programs not only provide the necessary technical skills but also foster innovative thinking and a passion for the construction industry. As a contractor, engaging with and supporting these programs is not just a service to the industry, but a strategic move to ensure a skilled, dynamic and future-ready workforce.
The Role of Contractors
Contractors play a vital role in this ecosystem. By partnering with these national programs, offering internships or participating in mentorships, contractors can directly influence and benefit from the development of this new talent pool. It's an investment in the future of their workforce and the industry at large. The modern workforce in the construction industry will require workers with strong STEM skills.
5 TIPS FOR CONTRACTORS
Attend STEM Education Conferences and Events: Many of these programs host or participate in national and regional conferences. Attending these events can provide contractors with insights into the programs and direct access to coordinators and students.
Engage with Local High Schools and Colleges: Many STEM programs operate through educational institutions. Building relationships with local high schools, vocational schools and colleges can be an effective way to connect with these programs.
Create Internship Opportunities: Develop structured internship programs tailored to STEM students. These internships should provide hands-on experience in construction, allowing students to apply their STEM skills in real-world settings.
Offer Scholarships or Sponsor Competitions: Contributing scholarships or sponsoring competitions related to construction can increase a contractor's visibility within these programs and attract top talent.
Participate in Mentorship Programs: Being part of a mentorship program allows contractors to directly engage with students, offering guidance and insight into the construction industry. It's a way to identify potential hires early in their career journey.
It’s not just about hiring interns or new graduates; it’s about building long-term relationships. By engaging with these programs, contractors can influence the development of future construction professionals, ensuring a workforce equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge.
Contractors have a unique opportunity to harness the potential of national STEM education programs. By actively seeking out these programs for interns or new hires, contractors are not only filling their immediate talent needs but are also investing in the long-term sustainability and innovation of the construction industry. Contractors are encouraged to explore these opportunities and establish themselves as key players in shaping the next generation of construction professionals.