Is Construction Still a Thing?

Man on Construction site framing
Article examining the construction industry in 2021 including the growth of construction jobs and the need for construction trades in Indiana.

The construction industry is always projected to be dying, so why is my phone always ringing? The truth is, something as essential as construction can never die. Without craft trade workers like carpenters, electricians, masons, pipefitters, and more, all the buildings and infrastructure we rely on would fall down around us. Roofs would leak. Foundations would crumble. Power would go out and never come back on. And our Indiana roads would finally become one giant pothole. 

Still, questioning “is construction still a thing?” has become a national trend, especially among young workers just entering the workforce. So let’s explore the questions—just how essential is construction today? Do people still want construction jobs? And what is the gap between the needs of the industry and the stigma of working construction?

State of the Construction Industry in 2021

The Associated General Contractors of America (ACG of America) reports that more than 7 million people are employed in the construction trade, and our industry builds $1.3 trillion worth of structures every year. That isn’t just homes, office buildings, and retail, but also infrastructure like roads, water, clean energy, and telecommunication. In fact, plans from Federal and State governments to increase infrastructure spending in the next few years are part of the construction industry’s recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

Yes, COVID-19 impacted construction like everything else. Overall, construction is expected to remain a little slower than average in 2021 as we still figure out necessary social distancing and the supply chain gets fully running again. But we have figured it out so far—and like everyone, we can’t wait for more normal circumstances.  

However, there’s a longer-term challenge for construction on the horizon: a talent gap. By 2031, it’s estimated that 41% of the current construction workforce will retire. This isn’t just skilled craftspeople, but also management. In the same time frame, construction job growth is expected to reach 12%, almost double the average of other industries. 

So the answer is—yes—construction is definitely still a thing. But we need to be recruiting and training the talented individuals to keep it that way. This is one reason we offer a certified construction project management course to help people skill up and lead the industry forward.

But Do People Even Want Building Careers Anymore?

In 2017, Builder surveyed a group of young Americans aged 18-25 about their willingness to consider construction work. Though the findings cast a harsh misperception on our industry, they are also the reality we must deal with. 

  • 43% said there is no amount of money that would make them consider a construction trade job. 
  • 48% of that group said they want less physically-demanding work, while 32% believe construction work is too difficult.
  • Young adults believe the typical median salary of someone in the trades is just over $56,000 a year. 

Part of the misunderstanding is believing construction jobs are low paying, but it doesn’t start and end there. Younger generations are more worried about the type of work they must do than the money they will make doing it. Taking advantage of automation in construction to reduce the manual, repetitive jobs will allow people to perform the more specialized and interesting work. This in turn will reduce the stigma of hard manual labor that is alienating many job seekers from the construction trades. 

Overall, the craft labor trades must improve our image and share the truth of our work through storytelling to attract and sustain the needed workforce. While people may not be considering building careers now, this is due to outdated ideas that we have the power to correct. 

Most In-Demand Construction Jobs in Indiana

Build Your Future Indiana is a unique collaboration of employers, state agencies, and industry associations committed to encouraging Hoosiers to pursue construction craft training and careers. According to the incredible data they collect statewide, these are the most in-demand Indiana construction skills:

Craft Laborer: Operate hand and power tools to make projects a reality. 

Carpenter: Measure, cut, and shape wood, plastic, glass, and drywall. 

Pipefitter: Plan and install detailed pipe systems for water, chemicals, or gases.

Electrician: Install and maintain electrical and power systems for facilities and devices.

Mason: Use bricks, concrete, blocks, and stones to build beautiful, lasting structures.

Millwright: Assemble or take apart machinery on work sites and in factories. 

These are just some of the craft labor trades that are needed across Indiana. From welding to heavy machinery operation to metalworking, there are opportunities for every interest in construction, for people from all backgrounds. Plus, entry level construction jobs are always a great pathway to move up the ladder and become a leader and manager on a team, if that interests you. 

How We Are Engaging the Next Generation of Construction Talent

The Darden Group LLC is excited to be a part of the ACE Mentor Program, with our founder Akilah Darden serving as the President of the ACE Mentor affiliate in Indianapolis. Through this program, high school students receive mentorship in Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE). The program is made up of 6 teams serving 7 Indianapolis schools: North Central, Ben Davis, Arsenal Tech, Warren Central, Decatur, and Lawrence (Central and North and McKenzie).  During about 15-18 sessions per school year we have presentations on A/C/E, create activities based on the presentation, and then discuss the project–and of course, there’s also lunch! 

Photo by Akilah Darden

Each year there is a master project incorporating all the ACE doctrines that the students work on throughout the months of October – May. The second week in May, students present their project, including a physical model, floor plans, a presentation, and display boards outlining their process to completion. Last year ACE Mentor Program of Indiana awarded $56k in scholarships to high school students going to college and going into the construction trades.

The Construction Trades are Here to Stay!

Construction is a vibrant and growing industry full of opportunities for people to work outside, develop useful skills, and even have the chance to start their own business, all without a college degree. The essential nature of our work building and maintaining the structures of society will never go away. As technology and diversity continue to expand their influence and improve our industry, there has never been a better time to get into a craft labor trade. If you’re curious about Indiana apprenticeship opportunities, or have your skills and need connections to projects, contact The Darden Group LLC.

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