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Get Them While They’re Young



As the construction industry rebounds with the growing economy, the search for talent has never been more important.

Companies that have not been thinking about their future workforce must do so now.

One of the best ways to attract people is to make today’s youth aware of the different types of opportunities in the built environment.


The Block Kids Building Program of the National Association of Women in Construction gives boys and girls a hands-on feel for the industry.

A number of programs exist to attract young people to the construction industry. Participation in one or more of these programs can provide a direct connection for businesses with the next generation of industry leaders.

Filling Open Positions in the Next 12-24 Months

Helmets to Hardhats

Helmets to Hardhats, a program to help military personnel find commercial construction jobs, was launched in January 2003 after a $3.4 million appropriation for the pilot program was approved by Congress as part of the Defense Appropriations Act.

While it is not geared toward only the young, many of its participants are in their early- to mid-20s.

These ready-to-employ workers have already acquired the discipline and dependability, as well as the leadership skills and the safety training that is emphasized by the military.

They offer the construction industry a steady labor pool, as many of them are looking to begin their careers without having to go to college or through technical training first.

Helmets to Hardhats
Helmets to Hardhats

Participants in Helmets to Hardhats are ready to employ, with the discipline, dependability, leadership and safety training that is emphasized in the military.

It certainly benefits the construction industry by alleviating labor shortages with candidates who have already received training in related skills.

Most of the program’s career opportunities are connected to federally approved apprenticeship training programs at no cost to the veteran, and no prior experience is needed.

Since these apprenticeship programs are regulated and approved at federal and state levels, veterans can use their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while learning new skills and receiving on-the-job training.

YouthBuild USA

Founded in 1990, YouthBuild USA is a national nonprofit organization that works with unemployed and undereducated young people ages 16–24 to rebuild their communities and their lives.

Those enrolled in this 10-month program work toward their GED or high school diplomas while learning construction skills by building affordable housing for low-income families and the homeless.

YouthBuild USA

YouthBuild USA allows young adults ages 16 to 24 to work on their GED or high school diplomas while learning construction skills by building affordable housing.

There are 273 YouthBuild programs nationwide and in the Virgin Islands, with approximately 10,000 participants annually.

Participation by industry leaders and their companies allows for prequalifying potential employees by playing an active role in their education and development of good work habits.

Filling Open Positions for the Future

Ace Mentor Program

Principals from leading design and construction firms founded the ACE Mentor Program in 1994 as an innovative way to introduce high school students to career opportunities in the industry.

Today, ACE is the construction industry’s fastest-growing high school mentoring program, reaching more than 8,000 students annually. Its goal is to introduce students to career possibilities, as well as to teach business skills such as effective communication, presentation skills, meeting deadlines and working as team members.

Students learn about the various design professions and the role of each in planning, designing and constructing a project.

Project teams are formed within a local ACE affiliate and usually include an owner firm, a design firm, an engineering firm and a construction manager or general contractor, as well as participants from a local college or university.

ACE Mentor Program
ACE Mentor Program

ACE students listen to one of ACE’s first mentors, Charles Thornton, talk about the engineering requirements necessary to display an F-104 fighter jet for a local aviation museum.

Each team mentors approximately 20 to 30 students for part of the school year and meets at least 15 times. Students select a project and go through the entire design process, with help from the mentoring firms. The school year ends with a formal event where the teams present their projects.

The ACE Mentor Program has a presence in more than 200 American cities and is still growing. Thanks to the dedication of ACE’s mentors and staff, and the support of local schools, more than 60,000 students have had the opportunity to explore the building, design and construction industry and consider it as a career choice.

Career Fairs

Popular recruitment strategies for many construction companies and trade associations are to participate in high school career fairs, work with high school career counselors to promote jobs in the construction industry, and advertise construction-related scholarships.

Job Fair
Wikimedia Commons / arvind grover

Although job fairs have traditionally targeted adults, construction firms and trade associations are now reaching out to high schoolers.

These efforts to improve the construction industry’s image and reputation have started targeting kids as early as elementary school.

Block Kids Building Program

In 1989, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) introduced its Block Kids Building Program, which is geared toward elementary school children.

The Block Kids program is a building competition sponsored by local NAWIC chapters.

Students from kindergarten to grade 6 are eligible to participate.

Block Kids

The Block Kids Building Program helps kids see building as an adventure.

They are given a variety of materials such as blocks, string and foil, and have one hour to build a structure of their choice. Winning projects are entered into a regional and national competition.

These competitions help students realize that building is an adventure and requires people in many functions to make it all happen.

About the Author

FMI alumnus Kelley Chisholm is a former editor and project manager of FMI Quarterly and FMI’s U.S. Markets Construction Overview.

Kelley Chisholm

She has published numerous articles on training and management topics in national trade publications and scholarly journals.



“Building Success” is written by professionals at FMI, the world’s largest provider of management consulting, investment banking, and research for the engineering and construction industry. FMI serves contractors, building materials and equipment producers,architects and engineers,owners and developers,and others across the industry. Author information is available at the bottom of each blog entry.



Tagged categories: Architecture; Construction; Consultants; Engineers; FMI; Good Technical Practice; Education; Hiring; Worker training

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