The construction industry always sees a lot of activity. The amount
of housing and commercial construction rises and falls according to different
factors, and it's hard to predict what will happen next. But one thing is
certain: the industry will continue to need qualified workers. And the need
is particularly strong for construction managers.
"There is a real need in our company and the commercial construction
industry generally, for highly skilled and experienced project engineers,
project managers, superintendents and pre-construction managers," says Jim
Carabell. He works for Sundt Construction, Inc. in Arizona.
Carabell says that a shortage of these individuals might keep some construction
companies from taking on certain additional work. That might prevent those
companies from growing as much as they otherwise could.
The shortage of these construction managers is due to many factors. For
one thing, it can take years of training and experience to qualify for a
construction manager position.
"These individuals do not fall from trees," says Carabell. "They are developed
through educational and work experience over the years."
As with many professions, the construction industry is also facing shortages
due to the baby boomers retiring.
"Part of the reason for the shortage is demographic," points out Jeff Morrison,
who works for a construction association. "This will put a big strain on the
supply of experienced managers. The industry has also ridden a wave of at
least eight years of strong economic growth, which has increased the demand
for experienced and competent managers."
"Many construction managers with the experience and knowledge to manage
these complex projects are nearing retirement," agrees Bruce D'Agostino, executive
director of the Construction Management Association of America. "Their departure
from the workforce will only increase the demand for these professionals."
Students are often not aware of all the opportunities in construction.
Some in the industry say teachers and guidance counselors aren't always aware,
"For whatever reasons -- probably social -- schools and their counselors
have regarded construction in general as a 'fallback' occupation." says John
Hiebert. He is the president of a construction management firm.
The industry has responded with a variety of programs to attract students
into the profession.
"The industry, having recognized this problem several years ago, has undertaken
an effort to market what construction does," Hiebert explains. "They do this
by [going to] schools to explain the benefits of careers in construction to
Grade 9 students and to school counselors. There have been other ad campaigns
showing young construction workers or managers in responsible positions."
With the right combination of education, training and experience, construction
management can be a well-paying career option. Entry-level professionals can
earn $50,000 to $60,000 annually. Work up to a higher-level management position
and that salary doubles.
In order to reach that level, new employees should expect their education
to continue on the job. "At our company, we have put into place a number
of internal education programs, both formal and on-the-job, to help develop
and prepare our entry-level engineers to be successful in these future career
paths," says Carabell.
But to get on that path, potential construction managers require degrees
in very specific fields, as well as training, experience and strong personal
skills. Carabell's company, for example, looks for a civil engineering or
construction management degree.
Mike Holland is the executive vice-president and CEO of the American Council
for Construction Education. He says a reputable degree is what is needed to
build the foundation for a construction management career.
"Be cautious," he warns. "Employment at this level requires a college education
from an accredited program, not online training from a fast-talking school
that will promise someone a degree in six months or for $2,000, or a degree
for the experience they have in life. There is a need for quality, educated
people, not a quick solution."
Along with that education, potential construction managers also require
a specific skill set. Basic computer skills, database management and communication
skills are very important. Specific courses in areas like estimating, negotiating,
scheduling and contract law are also valuable.
"People skills, business skills and computer skills, along with knowledge
of architecture and engineering, are critical to a successful career in construction
management," says D'Agostino. "These folks have great communication skills
and are very sophisticated in the use of computer technology."
They are also in a position of tremendous opportunity. D'Agostino believes
that 100 percent of graduates could have work before they even leave school.
Because the need for qualified people is so great, nearly all positions are
And the opportunities for women may be even greater. While only about
4 percent of students currently enrolled in construction management programs
are women, the industry overall is looking at ways to increase that percentage.
Carabell says that his company is "looking to attract and hire top-quality
women to join our company." And his company is not alone.
"Attracting women and other underrepresented populations into the construction
industry is a major goal of the industry, and can be a major tool in attracting
new workers," says Morrison.
D'Agostino points out that there has been significant growth in the ranks
of women construction managers over the past 10 years.
"This can be attributed to many firms and schools actively recruiting
women and the development of some excellent networking and mentoring groups
for these women," he explains.
A career as a construction manager can be rewarding for both genders. All
indications point to strong growth in the industry, particularly in the commercial
"Construction management has a strong future with many opportunities and
little chance for outsourcing to another country," observes D'Agostino. "And
with half the demand being met, there will be a strong hiring environment
for many years."
Morrison still believes that the industry has a bright future. "With pending
retirements and healthy growth forecast into the future, construction managers
will be very much in demand," he says.
"Certainly in this part of the world there is a strong future ahead for
construction managers and the associated professions and businesses," adds
Hiebert. "Elsewhere, there has always been and will always be a need for the
skills needed to build and manage the building of construction projects."
For Carabell, the appeal of using one's skills to work in construction
is deceptively simple. "There are no two days alike in construction. And
for those people who enjoy the thrill and pride of having a hand in creating
a structure, there is no job more rewarding."
Construction Management Association of America
Promotes professionalism and excellence in the profession
National Association of Women in Construction
Serving the interests of women in the industry