Massive skills gap in one industry means massive opportunity for colleges

The economy needs builders, so colleges need to build

What do you get when you cross a booming housing market with the arrival of the spring season, contentious immigration policies, and a large group of people who left the construction industry during the Great Recession?

You get a serious demand for skilled laborers—and, consequently, a window of opportunity for colleges.

The issue is affecting many U.S. cities. According to Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), nearly three-quarters of contractors nationwide say they are having a hard time filling positions—and that the labor shortage is currently their top concern. 

Consider expanding your programs by partnering with employers

The labor shortage is good news for those looking to enter the industry: Since the skills are coveted, experts predict that demand will result in higher wages and more career options.

But those eager to take advantage of the economic mismatch need to acquire those in-demand skills first—which is where colleges come into play. 

In North Texas, construction jobs are expected to increase by 27% by 2024. To meet local demand, North Lake College West Campus has created a construction technology lab, in which students put the skills they've learned in the classroom to the test with actual projects in welding, electricity, heating, ventilation, and more.  Students learn the theory of their trade—whether that's engineering, architecture, or management—in the classroom, then have the opportunity to apply the skills in the construction technology lab.

The program gives students a chance to acquire a valuable credential—one that the skilled-labor-deprived contractors in the area will quickly snatch up with promising pay.

The AGC recognizes the importance of proper training programs for students and workers, and has been urging lawmakers and government officials to expand and fund these types of programs.

If they have the means to do so, schools—especially community colleges enrolling adult learners—could benefit a great deal from offering these types of skill-building programs (Browder,, 12/9/16; Canizales, Community College Daily, 37; Johnson,, 3/20; statement, 1/24/17).

Make program choices based on market demand

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