Improving the U.S. Workforce Development System

RT-335 Topic Summary
RT 335


When will our nation invest the resources required to rebuild its construction workforce? Our ability to build and maintain our infrastructure system, once the best in the world, has eroded. We are still a world leader in developing technological innovations, but the workforce required to build the build, operate, and maintain the facilities to support those innovations across their lifecycle is absent. The United States’ workforce development system is in need of expansion and renewal.  This system includes the recruitment, training, placement and retention of individuals in gainful employment opportunities. Over the past three decades, we have seen a construction workforce shortage emerge. The shortage has worsened to the point that it is not only difficult to find quality craft professionals, but the shortage is impacting projects’ schedule, cost, and safety. As a nation, we have a wealth of resources that can be used to reverse these trends. If we choose to do nothing, the shortage of craft professionals will get worse and likely accelerate in the next decade due to an aging construction workforce.

Revitalizing our nation’s workforce development system is the path forward toward addressing not only the shortage of construction craft workers but the nation’s shortage among many technical industries. This effort will require new approaches in how we communicate career opportunities to youth in secondary and post-secondary education, work-based training, and other initiatives. This research formulated a series of policy recommendations that we collectively can advocate for to impact industry stakeholders and governmental agencies. Considering the relative benefits and costs of each recommendation, there are policies we can implement in the short term (less than three years), while others will require longer sustained effort.


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Minooei, Farzad (2018). “Towards a Deeper Understanding of the U.S. Workforce Development System in the Construction Industry.” Civil Engineering Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 343. University of Colorado at Boulder.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Short-term Workforce Development Policies

Establish and strengthen the awareness of career opportunities in our nation: Most graduating high schools expect to earn a bachelor’s degree for employment opportunities and to make more money, yet most jobs in the U.S. require a CTE education and associated certification. We must establish our nation’s commitment to the equality of all workers by recognizing the dignity of their contribution to society.

Revitalize our work-based learning programs: Despite the tremendous benefits associated with work-based learning, it remains a marginal education strategy in the U.S. Our nation needs to significantly improve participation in work-based learning programs by removing barriers to company participation and promoting its exposure in secondary education.

Measure performance and involvement in workforce development when awarding construction contracts – As owners recognized the importance of safety, they held their contractors to high standards of safety performance, which helped with long-term improvements in worker health and safety. Owners need to assess construction firms’ dedication and commitment to workforce development much like the industry does with safety.

Reference: (FR-335)

2 : Longer-term Workforce Development Policies

Redefine how we measure the quality of our nation’s secondary education system by career and college readiness: In terms of preparing graduates of our nation’s secondary education system, “career readiness” and “college readiness” are currently used interchangeably. Although academic proficiency is essential for any post-high school achievement, career readiness is a broader concept than just preparing individuals for university studies. At a minimum, all high school graduates should be career ready. The nation’s secondary education system should be provided greater incentive to ensure the career readiness of all high school graduates.

Increase the participation of underrepresented groups in CTE: The groups that represent the greatest opportunity for new workers in the construction industry include women, minorities, and veterans. To increase the numbers of these groups within the construction industry we must increase their presence within secondary and post-secondary CTE programs. This policy helps in recruiting these individuals into construction, but the industry must do a better job of retaining these future professionals with improved worksite conditions and other incentives.

Establish and expand collaboration between industry, education, and government: Industry and business leaders directly feel the challenge of recruiting people in non-managerial roles with required skills, training, and education. To promote CTE in both secondary and post-secondary education levels, the industry has to take an active role promoting industry involvement and investment into our nation’s secondary and post-secondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Develop more balanced funding among post-secondary Career and Technical Education versus University Systems: A sizable portion of public education and workforce funding is not effectively allocated to meet the needs of the national economy. The overall governmental funding received by Career and Technical Education programs across the U.S. has declined over the last decade. As a nation, we must increase funding available to CTE programs most needed by industry through both direct funding, incentive programs, and streamlined governmental funding programs.

Reference: (FR-335)

Key Performance Indicators

Research Publications

Improving the U.S. Workforce Development System - FR-335

Publication Date: 10/2018 Type: Final Report Pages: 94 Status: Tool

Restoring the Dignity of Work: Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development System into a World Leade - SP335-1

Publication Date: 09/2018 Type: Special Publication Pages: 34 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Session - Improving the U.S. Workforce Development System

Publication Date: 07/2018 Presenter: Number of Slides: 46 Event Code: AC2018


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