It would benefit all of us if, as a society, we could do a better job letting students know their career options before they opt for a four-year college degree. No value needs to be attached to the options, but the paths should be more clearly presented.

It should not feel ominous when a person chooses to enter the trades instead of college. There has existed a competitiveness between the two approaches, and that is counterproductive. A healthy economy needs people in the trades, as well as accountants, engineers, bankers, scientists, attorneys, and physicians.

The dilemma circles back to the marketing problem in construction. There is still a perception that people in construction aren’t as creative, that they don’t solve problems as well as college graduates. The reality is that construction workers have, by necessity, been a creative lot – figuring out solutions to issues on the spot and solving problems that arise using the tools on hand.

There is a lot of innovation happening in the construction industry today. Technology is enabling companies to deliver projects faster, with more participation by field crews to contribute to and refine the project model. After all, the field crews know how their portion of the project needs to be designed so it can be installed. They can ensure the project gets built correctly without needing rework.

Pride in a job well done was one of the foundational building blocks of the construction industry. If a worker loses influence over their job, it needs to be compensated for elsewhere. They still need to be empowered and enabled to impact the project. That may come from participating in design. Technology is adapting to the need of having field workers participate in the project model. People want to be heard and feel like they are contributing to something important.

Online training also needs to be succinct and interesting, targeted to specific tasks. Job simulations should be detailed enough to show the user how they will benefit from using the tool(s). Hands-on training is superior, because you don’t really learn how to use something until you’ve experimented with it.

Unfortunately, it’s often easier and more comfortable to do something the old way. It may not be efficient, but you know it so well. A shift in mindset needs to be encouraged, because embracing new technologies can be more frustrating than enjoyable. Be sure to invest in relationships to keep team members engaged in the process. 

The value of the change you’re trying to make has to be proven to be embraced. If you can’t defend it and show why it will be more efficient, the users will resist. The messaging needs to fit the user.

The company needs to be willing to invest some money and time into making the tools available and training the workers who will use them. It requires investment up front, and the return on that investment won’t be seen right away. Progress is slower when you’re implementing new technology. 

Tune in to episode 138 of Bridging the Gap Podcast and hear words of wisdom from Rebecca Lewis about new talent and tools for the trades. 


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