I heard a quote recently around perception that has stuck with me.

“I’m not what I think I am. I’m not what you think I am. I’m what I think you think I am.”

Perception really does become the reality despite what the truth might be. A clear example of perception and reality not lining up is in the construction industry. These jobs are unfairly deemed as “dirty,” “only a job not a career” and “not technical in nature.” I must admit that I have fallen victim to these thoughts as well from time to time. That is until I was able to get a closer look at the industry and see just what these “dirty jobs” entail.

You peel the onion back a layer and you will find an industry that is ripe with innovative ideas, creative job site problem solvers and a whole lot of really cool technology. I first noticed that perception and reality weren’t lining up on this when I joined Applied Software back in 2014.

Since that time, I’ve been curious why this is the case. Why does our culture have such a misguided view of the construction industry? As a millennial, I know first-hand that the push to go to college is real. I hear stories of “shop” class and it almost seems antiquated to think about. Something of a time gone by. It is hard to imagine a high school offering shop class because everything is geared towards college prep and AP classes.

Pair this with the also very real problem in the industry of skilled labor shortage, and you are in an endless loop of bad outcomes. A recent AGC and Autodesk survey showed that 80% of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions. This is resulting in higher project costs and longer project completion times.

The struggle of the construction industry to be able to accurately tell its story of innovation and technology to the younger generations is not only unsustainable, it is detrimental. But how does one change perception?

In our most recent episode of The Bridging the Gap Podcast, I chatted with Brett Stacks, Mechanical Segment Manager at eVolve MEP, about the ways he is leading a committee to do just that. In combination with NECA, MCAA, SMACNA and Skills USA, Brett and the eVolve MEP team are taking the fight to the next generation by sharing their stories and careers in the trades.

They are making the concerted effort to reach out to high schools and the corresponding guidance counselors. His passion for this project is undeniable and contagious. Only after the trades and the construction industry stand up and share their stories, innovation and, frankly, just really cool technological advancements they are making, will perception start to turn around. Once this happens, the labor shortage should start to diminish as well.

In the conversation with Brett, we also get into what software’s role should be in the skilled labor shortage and what the future of MEP looks like. Spoiler Alert: the future is looking good for MEP. No surprise there. Each year at our MEP Force event, I stand amazed at what the trades are doing. The stories that I’m able to hear there are nothing short of incredible.

I’m excited to be able to provide even a small platform for these trades stories to come out. Make sure to check out my conversation with Brett.


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