Here on The Yard, we’ve discussed the labor shortage, especially of skilled labor, plaguing the construction industry. The decline began in 2008, after the recession, and has yet to fully recover. Already-high need for labor only increased with the devastation Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought to the southern U.S. earlier this fall. With much of the construction workforce beginning to retire, there’s no sign the demand will slow.
Due to the labor shortage, more states are beginning to emphasize trades as an alternative to four-year colleges and offer courses to high school students. Construction trades are generally high-paying professions and are more likely to require hands-on training than formal education. Trades are even more promising when apprenticeships are available—you can get paid while you learn.
Like high school students, women are a largely untapped demographic when it comes to recruiting skilled trade labor. Massachusetts is one state that’s focusing on bringing more women into construction, one of the most male-dominated industries in the U.S. The state aims to make 20% of the workforce female by 2020. In the UK, women in the field are working to change the perception of construction jobs, since most girls don’t even consider them to be an option.
So which skilled labor jobs are in highest demand, and which have the best outlook in the next few years? Let’s take a look at six construction jobs with high demand and expected growth. All salary, growth projection and employment data is via the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2016 median salary: $52,720
Projected 10-year growth rate: 9%
Electricians are already in-demand and command competitive wages, and outlook for the field will certainly continue to grow as construction embraces technology. As technology continues to become a bigger component of construction, more projects will require an electrician’s expertise. Electricians usually learn their trade through an apprenticeship or in trade school, and are required to get a license.
2016 median salary: $51,450
Projected 10-year growth rate: 16%
Plumbers are the fastest-growing profession on our list and in high demand across the country, driven by retiring Baby Boomers and the upswing in construction spending. It’s the sector of construction that could benefit the most from bringing more women into the trades: only about 1.3% of over 500,000 plumbers in the U.S. are women.
2016 median salary: $50,830
Projected 10-year growth rate: 13%
Metal is a huge part of many construction projects, including skyscrapers, commercial buildings, roads and bridges. And someone has to put all that metal where it’s supposed to go—that’s where ironworkers come in. Ironworkers become journeymen after an apprenticeship, learning both on-the-job and in the classroom.
2016 median salary: $37,760
Projected 10-year growth rate: 11%
Though roofers’ salary is on the lower end, the job’s growth rate is faster-than-average and employees can learn while they work. And as green building becomes more commonplace, it’s likely that many roofers will learn how to install solar panels. Besides installation, roofers will no doubt need to know how to perform repairs on the solar panels—both skills that would command higher pay.
5. Construction and building inspectors
2016 median salary: $58,480
Projected 10-year growth rate: 10%
Construction and building inspectors make sure jobsites and projects are up to code and ensure that contractors stay in compliance every step of the way. Inspectors can find their niche by choosing a specialty like home or electrical inspections. Technology’s integration into construction will provide another niche for inspectors as new regulations are put in place alongside the new technology.
6. Heavy equipment operators
2016 median salary: $45,040
Projected 10-year growth rate: 12%
Heavy equipment operators are expected to see more job opportunities as infrastructure spending increases. This is yet another construction job that will feel technology’s impact: though some fear it will make operators obsolete, it’s really just another tool for them to use. Operators are already some of the first to utilize telematics to communicate on the jobsite and monitor equipment maintenance. An increasing number of renewable energy projects will certainly contribute to operators’ job growth and let them put tech knowledge to work.
Overall, things are looking up in construction: spending is up, well-paying jobs are available and educating the workforce is a priority. Though fears about technology reducing the number of construction jobs available aren’t unwarranted, it’s important to recognize there are many areas where technology can’t beat an experienced journeyman.