As the construction industry grows, inquiries and orders are increasing for contractors. This sounds like a booming industry, but the only problem is the alarming lack of skilled workers available to fulfill these orders. For over a decade, the number of skilled tradesmen able to work in the construction industry has been declining.
The need for skilled trade workers continues to increase as the aging, experienced workforce heads into retirement. The average age of skilled tradesman is 55, meaning they will be retiring and leaving the industry in the next 10 years.
An array of circumstances planted the seeds of the current trade shortage. The shortage is known to have begun during the Great Recession, and still has not bounced back. However, over the last two decades, schools and parents have placed emphasis on a college education rather than encouraging a trades career. Too many people have been told the only way to be successful is by attaining a college degree. It is important for the field of education, especially Career & Technical Education programs, to dispute this myth to help students see the value of craftsmanship.
Regardless of the innovations and technological updates, someone will always need a plumber, electrician or remodeler. The future of the construction industry has an advantage, they will have job security. Therefore, it is important for individuals to start developing the skills needed to enter the industry.
"It is important for individuals to consider courses and certifications that would allow them the opportunity to work in these fields that are very high-paying, very lucrative, very skill-specific, and there's a great need for it," said Tim Reed, president of J Ferg Pros.
To prepare the next generation of construction workers and address the growing skills gap in the field, the Home Builders Association of Alabama (HBAA) designed an industry certification focusing on the fundamental competencies necessary to work in the construction industry. The industry certification, the HBAA Residential Construction Skills Certification, will be available on the iCEV industry certification testing platform in October 2020 nation-wide to schools, individuals and the workforce.
The Home Builders Association of Alabama
Representing 7,500 members, the HBAA is an advocate for the housing and construction industry. HBAA members include builders, remodelers, developers, suppliers, manufacturers, architects, engineers and other industry professionals. The HBAA continually strives to protect and promote the construction industry. As an affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), a federation of more than 850 state and local associations with 174,000 members nationwide, HBAA is part of the most influential and active organization representing the building industry.
As a leading voice for the construction industry, the HBAA is confident certification will prepare individuals for the workforce and help employers identify qualified candidates. The HBAA talked with several of their members to identify the knowledge and skills they look for in a potential employee. From the feedback they received, the HBAA developed industry standards designed to assess an individual’s mastery of construction principles and practices.
"This certification adds value to the construction industry, because it's created by the construction industry," said Kory Bowling, executive director of the Alabama Home Builders Foundation. "This is not something we pulled out of the air. We asked our members, 'what's important to you for an applicant on a job or worker on a job site?' And these are the skills they came up with."
The Residential Construction Skills Certification
The HBAA Certification verifies earners possess the necessary knowledge and skills individuals need to know for all trades related to building a home. "Our expectation is for them to be an entry-level technician," said Joel Owen, manager of the HVAC Training Center at Alabama Power.
Earners of the HBAA Certification are prepared to step on the job site, and employers can rest assured certification earners are able to complete common construction practices and follow standards health and safety procedures. "Stepping on a site for the first time can be overwhelming, this can help with that," said Bowling. "By giving them the skills to be productive on the job site will improve our industry."
"Certifications make you a professional. The HBAA Certification shows a commitment and interest in pursuing this career," said Bowling. Earning an industry certification demonstrates an individual's passion for the industry and their willingness to put in the time and effort to be successful. Reed shared he is more likely to hire the applicant with more experience, with prior knowledge or has earned an industry certification when between two hires.
"When you're looking at hiring candidates for a job, specifically skill-specific aspects of construction, your plumbing, your HVAC, your electrical, those things, it's very important for us to bring on someone that is as up to speed as possible, so prior knowledge, certifications, those types of things are very important."
Additionally, an industry certification shows the employer, earners are dedicated to personal and professional growth and willing to take the necessary steps to become leaders in their field. In an ever-evolving world, the industry is continuing to change. "We are moving into a high-tech world, especially in-home building," said Owen. Employers are seeking to hire employees who are willing to learn, adapt and continue to improve both individually and in the industry.
The HBAA Residential Construction Skills Certification is designed to verify an individual has the competency to step onto a job site. Individuals who earn this certification will be more qualified and prepared to enter high-demand roles within the construction industry. The HBAA Certification will help employers identify and connect with more skilled candidates. Overall, the certification will fill gaps within the labor market and jump-start an individual's careers in residential construction.