by Mike Oster, president, GEMBA Technologies
Ok I admit, I only saw three of 2017's Oscar-nominated films for Best Picture. However, if you have a daughter or granddaughter that needs a little inspiration for a career in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math), the movie Hidden Figures is an awesome movie to discuss at the dinner table. Not only does it provide a glimpse at the challenges of putting the first man in Earth's Orbit (and return), it's main theme covers the courage and determination of three black women working for NASA in the 60s who went on to change history.
So how does this movie relate to the theme of this article? For those of you in the Engineering & Construction Industry, we have all heard about the skilled workforce shortage that will negatively impact our forecasted growth in Construction, and subsequently, our economy.
Construction-related jobs are expected to grow annually by 3% each year through 2022. Growth in Construction means an increase in our overall GDP. However, the workforce shortage in Skilled Trades and White Collar Engineer positions will drive up costs and erode profits, unless, Owners and Contractors develop better strategies on attracting and retaining talent. In particular, it is no secret there is a huge disparity of men versus women in this industry.
Job Market Today:
Here are some facts from the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics on Women in Today’s Engineering and Construction Workforce. While Computer Technology positions fare a little better, it is sad to see the "Women to Men" Engineer Ratio across the board.
Job Outlook Tomorrow:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a large need for engineering and technology-related positions over the next 10 years due to job growth and replacement of those leaving the workforce. To meet this demand, it is necessary for our nation to promote these professions among underrepresented groups, especially women and minorities.
Look at that last column above. Over 30% “Net New” positions will be required as a result of growth or replacement positions. When you look at general economic forecasts, positions that require degrees in STEM are where the money is. Specifically, the median annual wage for architecture and engineering occupations was $76,870 in May 2015. The median annual wages for all occupations in this group was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations in the economy, which was $36,200. Pretty substantial argument for pushing the next generation, right?
Unfortunately, females are not getting into Engineering degreed positions fast enough, based on college enrollments.
What’s the Problem?
So if the salaries are there, the demand is there, the women are there, what is the problem? WE are the problem. Our country, Our industry, Our building owners, pur management teams, our communities, our schools, and we as parents, all share in the responsibility of not doing enough. Read the research. A lot of the issues come from social, societal, and environmental stereotypes that are alive and well.
I am not suggesting action is not taking place. There are many wonderful programs that are generating interest for STEM enrollments for women and minorities. However, without accelerated Marketing AND Training programs particularly to middle school students, the volume of students will not be there. Likewise, the industry has to do a better job at promoting women into higher levels of the company. Promotions drive salaries AND opportunities. Opportunities drive higher interest in the field.
Unfortunately, when you sit in the boardroom at almost any construction company, the ratio of women executives to men is off-balance. You can’t blame just the construction company. If the women aren’t entering the field, then you cannot promote those that are not there. That is why the challenge is a global challenge. Is this inequity sustainable? In ten years’ time (let alone now), does a construction company want to be seen and perceived as old school? Do their customers want to work with companies that are perceived this way?
We are running out of time before the lack of both trades and STEM labor will negatively impact Construction Companies and Owners. Interest in Engineering and Technology positions for the Construction Industry must start in middle schools or earlier. Schools and Community Groups must market these fields better. Parents and Teachers need to drive aspirations.
By the time kids reach high school, it is too late. Quite often, their beliefs have been established, and the perception of the industry remains unchanged. There are so many amazing changes happening in the Engineering and Construction Industry. When you look at all the technologies that are coming at us every day, there are very few industries that will be impacted as much as the Construction Industry. It is now time to make equal changes in the makeup of our workforce.
Earlier this year, I wrote a New Year’s Resolution article for the Construction Industry. It asked each of us what would be the ONE thing they would do differently this year to move our industry forward. The answer to that “one thing” is different for each of us. However, if you haven’t decided yet what your one thing is, consider active participation on driving the next generation into STEM-degreed positions and eliminate the stereotype that exists in our industry.
Michael Oster is president of Gemba Technologies. Gemba Technologies provides CIO Services across multiple industry spectrums. Services include development of IT Strategies, business plan development, process re-engineering services, cloud strategies, contract negotiations, technology assessments, security strategies, emerging technologies, and other CIO services.
Oster is well-known in the Construction Industry and participates in Leading conference presentations, webinars, and articles targeted at Information Technology and the Construction Industry. With close to 40 years of total I.T. experience, Oster has worked for a variety of industries including construction, manufacturing, utilities, food & beverage, entertainment, and the software industry. Oster holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Maryville University and a Master’s Degree in Information Management from Washington University in St. Louis.