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New workforce program sells construction as 'cool' | Dump Trucks Charlotte NC

Matthew Muller, Royal Electric Company

It takes a lot to capture the attention of Generation Z — Americans born between the mid-1990s to early-2000s.

This group of digital-savvy young people have grown up with social media, streaming video and online shopping.

A new outreach effort aimed at curbing the construction labor shortage takes an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach with a campaign aimed to sell construction careers via a slick marketing package.

Launched late last month, the Build California campaign utilizes marketing, public relations and outreach efforts to communicate the lucrative, long-term benefits of careers in the state’s construction industry. The group's interactive website was designed to urge high school and college-age Californians (and their parents) to consider an apprenticeship, training or college program. 

Spearheaded by the Associated General Contractors of California with support from construction firms like Skanska and Kiewit, the campaign's mission is to meet young Californians on their terms, according to AGC of California Vice President of Workforce & Community Development Erin Volk, and to sell construction as fun, stable and well paying.

“We knew that we needed to reach and engage Gen Z where they are and how they like and best receive information, in a way that is technology forward, interactive and easily accessible on their phones and other mobile devices,” she told Construction Dive. 

The outreach takes a fresh approach to reaching its target audience in order to help combat the state’s crippling labor shortage. 

“We knew we needed a new way of marketing careers to youth in 2019 or 2020,” she said. “It can’t be done the same way we did it 20 years ago, so we knew we had to modernize our efforts.”

The group faces an uphill battle: Despite decades of workforce development resources and efforts invested by the construction industry, only 9% of Gen Z is interested in a future in construction, according to Volk. 

“We need to demonstrate the careers and training pathways in a way that is modern and “cool” to them — not us as an industry — but also authentic and informative, which aligns with the expectations and values of the generation we are trying to reach.”

Testing ground

The website will drive students, parents, teachers and job seekers to actionable information on careers in construction. Visitors can learn about the various construction trades, get connected to apprentice programs across the state, identify college pathways, or find a job on the site’s job listing portal. Family members and educators can access information about the benefits of their students entering the industry and how to engage with the program.

Based on generational and market research, the site emphasizes construction's immediate, long-term career opportunities, not short-term or seasonal jobs.

The initiative is supported by AGC of California, the AGC Construction Education Foundation, LCPtracker and Procore. Additional coalition partners and supporters represent all areas of the industry.

The multi-phased program will begin with a pilot implementation year, targeting three high schools for in-school activation, while also launching an online educator portal available for teachers and administrators to begin engagement on-demand. At the completion of the 2019-2020 school year, AGC will review results of the pilot year before launching in additional schools throughout the state.

“Our goal for the pilot year is to test our hypothesis and make sure Build California is engaging with our audiences—students, parents, teachers, job seekers—in meaningful ways,” said Volk. “We are being intentional about how we engage and interact, especially with the students, knowing devices, social media platforms, and all of their influencing factors change quickly in this digital world.” 

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