Jobs available in construction

On Nov. 17, Mainers will have the opportunity to see the future of our state’s construction industry in action. During a day-long event known as the Craft Championship, now in its 18th year, dozens of construction companies from around the state will be working with more than 1,000 high school students both inside and outside the Augusta Civic Center. Students will be participating in everything from electrical work to welding to carpentry, and some will even have the opportunity to drive a boom truck.

As Maine faces a true shortage in the skilled workforce, events like the Craft Championships can help build enthusiasm for careers in the trades — careers that are solid and pay well. The construction industry is growing, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that the industry will add 700,000 jobs in the next decade alone in the United States. Right now, the Maine Department of Labor reports that the average weekly wage for construction jobs is nearly $900. When you move into heavy and civil engineering construction, that jumps to nearly $1,200.

There is demand for construction across all sectors right now, from health care to hospitality to education to the government. Ample opportunity exists right now for Mainers to enter the construction field and to earn a good living. Interest rates are low and business is booming, but companies like mine are having trouble finding enough workers to fill positions. The lack of skilled workers in the trades hurts our economy; it slows down projects and makes it harder for development needs to be met.

My own company has struggled to find workers. We are working on projects across the state and have struggled to find people at all positions, from lineworkers to excavator operators to traffic control personnel. Businesses like ours are turning down work or delaying owner schedules because we are unable to find skilled employees in our specific fields. I know I am not alone in facing this issue, and I am glad that Associated Builders and Contractors, along with many of my colleagues in the industry, is trying to tackle the issue head on through training and advocacy.

Unemployment is at a record low in the state, and sectors across the board are desperate for workers. That is not an exaggeration. We need to keep more students in the state, and we need to let them know that it is okay to work with their hands. Attending tech school or a community college is simply the best fit for some students, and in most cases results in less student debt and a promising career right out of school.

By letting students know that it is OK to work with their hands and to dedicate their lives to a career in construction, we can help build the industry and help get more Maine students into rewarding careers in their home state. Building the workforce isn’t only about growing the construction industry and filling jobs, it’s also about letting Mainers know they can stay in their home state to raise their families and have a fulfilling career.

The Craft Championships shows the excitement and skillset many Maine students already have for the construction industry and trades, and I encourage you to pay attention to the good work going on in Augusta on Friday. Stop by the Augusta Civic Center if you are able, and see the future of Maine’s workforce getting ready for their careers right now. The crowds and enthusiasm are an encouraging sight, and I hope that both grow in the coming years. Such growth would be beneficial for our state overall.

Brad Stout is CEO and president of Coutts Brothers, based in Randolph.

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