Young Adults & the Construction Trades

NAHB conducted a national poll of young adults ages 18 to 25 to find out how this age group feels about a career in the construction trades. The majority of young adults (74%) say they know the field in which they want to have a career.  Of these, only 3% are interested in the construction trades.

Most of the young people interested in the trades say the two most important benefits of this career choice are good pay (80%) and the attainment of useful skills (74%). Less than half cite as benefits that the work is seasonal (15%) or that it does not require a college degree (37%).

Bar graph titled, "Most Important Benefits of a Career in the Construction Trades"


The 26% of respondents who do not yet know the career path they want to take got a follow-up question about the chance they might consider a number of fields (construction trades being one of them) using a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 meant ‘no chance no matter the pay’ and 5 meant ‘very good chance if the pay is high.’ Construction trades got an average rating of 2.1, with 63% of undecided young adults rating it 1 or 2 (no or little chance regardless of pay) and 18% a 4 or 5 (good to very good chance if pay is high).

Bar Graph

The 63% of undecided young adults who indicated there was no or little chance they would consider a career in the trades no matter the pay were prodded about the reasons for their resoluteness. The two most common reasons are wanting a less physically-demanding job (48%) and the belief that construction work is difficult (32%).  They were then asked if there was any compensation level that might entice them to reconsider a career in the trades.  For slightly more than 20%, that number is either $75,000 or $100,000, but for the plurality (43%), there is no amount of money that could make them give the trades a second thought.

A complete research paper on this topic can be found here, including an analysis of government data on actual wages for construction occupations relevant to the home building industry.

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19 thoughts on “Young Adults & the Construction Trades

    1. Not necessarily so. In the 1950’s, 60’s 70’s and early 80’s before the influx of Hispanics the “Trades” were composed of “Americans”, both white and black. The problem with attracting today’s young generation into the Construction Trades is most do not want to sweat or get their hands dirty.

  1. Add up all the statistics you want, but no company is going to pay a general laborer 100k a year to do that job. Some of these positions are back breaking dangerous jobs with more risks than rewards. The #1 reason construction companies outsource immigrant workers is because they can pay them cheaper and ask more out of them than Americans.

    1. By far most housing carpenters only receive $13 to $21 per hr. and a lead man only receives $25 and all with no benefits. Mostly the small companies pay less and its cash.

    2. I am a 28yo project manager for a genral contractor. My salary is right at $2,075 a week. I have a two year degree. I started out operating a backhoe at 18 and walked in making $16 an hour while my friend from HS were making half that at mcdonalds. By the time I was 20 I was out and had a career. I find most major projects are simply a matter of using common sense and proper planning/scheduling. I cannot fill $20+ hour operator/tech jobs nor $25+ QC jobs. We talk about fight for 15 but we cannot fill good paying careers beacue they are too hard for my pussified generation.

  2. Passing laws like Right to Work, is destroying union in which destroys wages and a chance to have a respectible retirement. If it weren’t for the unions, wages accost the board would be lower. In fact everyone should back the unions because if it werent for them so many things as Americans we are used to wouldn’t exist today. You do like weekends right? How about vacations or sick days, holidays, overtime. Workers rights! If the big cheeses get there way, non of these will exist anymore. You will se an uprise in protests against these people who only think they deserve the best, and it will probably be the unions standing up again for everyone rights.

  3. Perhaps the notes from after a March 2017 interview for a “Field Technician II” at the San Diego office of a geotechnical engineering firm providing materials testing, inspection services and QA/QC management to contractors and owners will provide some insight.
    This was for a “Field Technician II” position requiring “multiple certifications and training and TWIC”; available to travel; willing to use personal truck; but (strangely) only “zero to three years” experience.

    Received calls from HR and VP (San Diego, CA office) before having completed the online application process (resume was uploaded). Were impressed with my diverse experience and range of certifications / licenses. Interview scheduled in three days (currently on graveyards).

    VP and Engineer present (Field Tech’s Supervisor not available). VP reviewed resume in a “very exacting” manner requesting detailed information. Both were impressed that resume did not have “embellished” information. Presented my binder of certifications and licenses and training for review. Career Log Book (Brown Book) was not requested.

    VP expressed dismissive attitude of San Diego “COLI” and stated company reimbursement for use of personal truck was only the IRS mileage rate (2017 = $0.54/mile). Per diem rate of $30/day (not the IRS (GSA) regional per diem rates for California). Reimbursement for certification or license test costs up to $1200, but no education savings account match. No continuing education / CEU’s assistance; not books, travel or hotel. Wage rate offered were 2007 rates and based on 2080 hours; normal is 1500 hours for Field Technicians & Inspectors. Asked what my wage requirements were (hardball). My wage requirements were not provided.

    Notable questions:
    “Describe your RSC experience during CalTrans highway production.”
    Detailed duties and procedures followed. Specifications used. Special situations encountered.

    “What specifications did you most frequently reference during construction of the Solar Power Generation Station.”
    Referenced ASTM’s for specific materials but needed to rely on industry / manufacturer documents and RFI’s for remaining inspection and testing requirements.

    1. Americus, I am familiar with your industry as well as this market (San Diego). I don’t understand your reference to TWIC, or RSC. I am wondering if there was more of a point to your post. I understand that maybe it was a bit of a rant that the offered pay was low. Was there more to it? Thanks for sharing.

  4. AAGGGHHHH… Guys Guys Guys… wake up… The kids today are soft little woosies, that’s why they don’t want the work… the article even verifies that, and as far as Union, it’s NOT the money that makes the union great, it’s the training and education that makes Trade Unions Great… Homes built prior to Jimmy Carter were built well because the workers were union trained, not monkey-see monkey-doers… Since Jimmy Carter the quality of homes has only been saved by the Hardware the incompetents get to use today… which is a good thing because while our future Americans woose out, the under-trained /educated monkey-see monkey-do Mexicans are taking over… with hardware, structural propriety is paint-by-numbers… It’s going to be a sad day when the Unions lose our public works… It’s one thing for your house to become subject to the elements due to improper construction it’s a whole ‘nother thing for our highways, bridges and public building to fall apart while we use them… Truth is, our kids need to man up and we need to get that wall in place before our entire country is poorly built!!!

    1. Never were even 10-15% of housing built by unions.
      Union labor is 300% more, or higher. Prevaling wage runs double common area, full legal wage ( that’s a 100% increase.) Coupled with low ( slow) production, and union rules ( idiocy ) gets you to 3X labor costs. I’m not including other employer union costs/benefits.

      All AmericN cities were built and grew pre union. As city economy labor unionized, cities ceased to grow, populations fled, and debts rocketed. Just like unionized industries.

      Construction is dangerous, dirty, injurious, yet requring ever higher esthetics. Further government regulations are killing it. Employment is boom and bust.

  5. I don’t find the compensation data very useful as there are really very few jobs available, in any field, that will provide that payscale for a young professional.

    I believe that the primary factors limiting interest in the construction trades are learned perceptions from family members that the trades are inferior to other professions and a lack of exposure with so many schools reducing their trades programs or moving them to other locations.

    Blaming immigrants for lack of interest or implying that they have less innate skill than Americans is ridiculous. I’ve worked on many crews where the most talented and highest paid craftspeople were immigrants, some of those crews were union. Look elsewhere for your demons. As I see it, if young Americans don’t develop an interest in the trades, the immigrants will be the only people we can hire.

  6. It is a sad situation the way our children are being brought up these days. They are not being taught to work hard for what you want. My wife and I disagree about making the kids work. I try to make them earn their keep, and my wife prefers to do it for them. We are still a loving family, but I worry they will struggle once they get into the “real working world”. I am a carpentry instructor and work hard with ages 14-30 teaching the trade. Also the dedication it takes to be successful. I am happy to say, I have seen the fruits of my labor bloom.

    1. Re: Labor works:
      Yes, all of us who are raising or have raised kids have had ” a loving family”, but wives or husbands who have coddled the kids have done them a dis-serve . When these kids become adults in age they will still be dependent in lieu of independent. Kudos to you in your endeavor in teaching a trade. Contrary to popular belief, some trades, (electrical and mechanical especially) can provide six figure annual earnings in the commercial sector of construction.

  7. That’s what happens when the government gives them handouts and lets their parents pay for their insurance till after 26. No reason to get a job working hard when you have no reason to. When you need food and a place to live you will do any kind of work.

  8. The point missing here is the thrill of topping out on a two or three year job and knowing that is a tribute to the skill and dedication of the crew that did it.. As the years pass you meet old companions on one project or another . we share the time and move on to the next challenge. This is the soul deep satisfaction of knowing by god I am a man I will not only survive, I will prevail!. You cannot get that from a lessor career.

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