The prospect of a well-paying job at 18 or 19

Robert W. Foster

President Biden wants to spend $ 2.3 trillion on improving America’s infrastructure in response to realities that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our national infrastructure a C-minus rating in its 2021 report. a local example, ASCE reports that 9% of Massachusetts bridges are structurally deficient.)

Biden’s bill is called the American Jobs Plan. While improving the country’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterworks and other vital public works components, thousands of jobs will be created. The question is, where will the construction industry find the workers to fill these jobs?

The National Center for Construction Education & Research estimates that 41% of the national workforce will be retired by 2031.

For every new worker entering the labor market, five workers leave the trades or retire.

It takes 11 years for a new worker to reach the same level of skill as the worker they are replacing.

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor project the need for 747,600 new construction workers, a 10% increase between 2018 and 2028. (This estimate was made before President Biden released his 2 , $ 3 trillion).

Nationally, since 1985, there has been a 39% decrease in the 16-24 cohort of construction workers. During the same period, there was a 39% increase in the over 45 cohort. The workforce is aging.

Boston construction labor conditions are in line with national statistics: 54.8% of construction workers in Boston are over 40. The share of Boston workers aged 18 to 24 is 6.7%. Ten years ago, the average age of the working population was 38; in 2019, the average age was 42.

People may think of construction work in Boston as mostly shovel-and-shovel labor – labor-intensive, lacking in skills. In fact, the construction workforce is made up of sheet metal workers (3%), equipment operators (4%), pipe fitters (4%), plumbers (5%), ironworkers (8 %), electricians (13%) and carpenters. (21%) as well as ordinary workers (20%). Another 22% of the workforce includes many smaller trades.

Where is the education and training for all these trades? In Massachusetts we have something called the Career Technical Initiative (CTI) program. Governor Charlie Baker, recognizing the need for more investment in vocational and technical education in Massachusetts, offered to fund the CTI program for FY22 at $ 15.3 million, but the House Ways and Means Committee proposed $ 4 million. dollars for technical career institutes. The last level of the state budget of $ 47.7 billion funds the CTI program to the tune of $ 4 million. (See “Baker Praises Vocational and Technical Training,” The Daily News, May 1.)

Surprisingly, the Republican governor gives higher priority to vocational training than does Ways and Means members of the Democratic House.

Locally we have Keefe Tech and Minuteman Tech, great institutions for young people looking for a career job. The prospect of a well-paying job at age 18 or 19 versus $ 40,000 or $ 50,000 in debt after four years of college at age 22 or 23 is an attractive option. for many young people. The opportunity to combine voc / tech training with the broader education available in the community college system is even more appealing, especially to parents who believe nothing less than a college education is right for their children. In fact, we learn from a recent survey that 60% of eastern Massachusetts voc / tech school graduates go on to some level.

MetroWest is at the center of a well-known national education area (i.e. Massachusetts). There needs to be a better understanding of the value of vocational training for young people who are not all ready or able for a four-year university experience. There are wonderful careers available to them. Too bad so many parents and high school guidance people seem to believe the narrative, in place since World War II, that a college education is the only path to a successful and meaningful career.

Robert W. Foster is a retired civil engineer living in Hopkinton. He can be reached at robertwf97 @ g.

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