Widespread unemployment and a booming U.S. economy have spurred labor shortages, especially in the construction industry. In response, many contractors are expanding their recruitment efforts to untapped markets of women including new high school graduates and former homemakers.
National Center for Construction Education and Research spokesperson Robert Moorhead said that the construction industry’s shortage of about 30,000 to 40,000 workers is at least in part due to the industry’s “image problem.” He noted that stereotypes lead many to believe that all construction workers are huge-shouldered, macho and burly males.
Women comprise only about 2 percent of hands-on construction jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. They are best represented in electrical and plumbing work, where their special talent for manual dexterity is put to use.
A spokesperson for the Washington, DC-based Associated General Contractors industry group stated that women need not shy away from construction jobs for fear that they lack adequate upper-body strength. “A lot of the heavy lifting requirements have been made obsolete through machinery – through cranes, tractors and other types of equipment. There are alternative methods to lifting materials,” he explained.
Various construction industry groups including the National Association of Women in Construction continue to visit schools in an effort to drum up student interest in construction jobs.