How the Construction Industry is Attracting Computer & Data Science Majors

How the Construction Industry is Attracting Computer & Data Science Majors

The construction industry has increasingly turned to college students to supplement its aging workforce.

Now, the industry is specifically targeting – and attracting – college grads who were previously considering careers in computers and data science.

This shift is driven by various factors, including job stability, high-paying opportunities, and the evolving technological landscape within the construction sector. As the industry struggles to staff job sites, contractors have ramped up their pursuit of the next generation of builders, integrating advanced technologies and diverse skill sets to meet modern demands.

Three construction workers pose for a photo.
The construction industry has increasingly turned to college students to supplement its aging workforce.

Increased Outreach and Recruitment

Laura Cosgriff, the construction technology coordinator for Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio, said in a recent article in industry publication Construction Dive that she’s noted a significant increase in calls from local contractors looking to employ students. The frequency of these calls has risen so much that she developed a canned response and email format to manage employer inquiries efficiently.

This uptick in demand reflects a broader trend across the industry.

Construction employers have intensified their outreach efforts to students, particularly through platforms like Handshake, which focuses on college student career placement. Over the past year, construction-related student outreach on Handshake increased by 46%, alongside a rise in internship postings. This proactive approach has successfully attracted students from diverse academic backgrounds, including those with expertise in computer and data science.

Real-World Success Stories

Barbara Lopez-Santana's journey is a prime example of this trend. A recent graduate of Florida International University, Lopez-Santana told Construction Dive that she transitioned from architecture to construction management, aligning her career with her passion for organization and hands-on work. Her internship at Moss & Associates in Miami evolved into a full-time position, underscoring the robust career opportunities within the construction sector.

Lopez-Santana's story highlights the stability and continuous demand in construction, which she described simply: “The simple reason is construction never stops.” This sentiment resonates with many young professionals who see construction as a lucrative and stable career path.

The Appeal of Construction to Tech Students

The allure of construction for students from computer and data science fields is multifaceted. According to Handshake's report, applications to architecture, drafting, and construction management roles rose by over 40% in the past year. Additionally, the number of applications from computer science and data science majors to construction jobs doubled, reflecting a significant shift in career interests.

The construction industry offers diverse opportunities for those with technical backgrounds. Matt Rosentreter, talent generation manager at Burns & McDonnell, emphasized the industry's increasing need for varied skill sets, including finance, business analytics, virtual design, and computer science. These diverse academic experiences are crucial for driving innovation and efficiency in construction projects.

Technological Integration and Innovation

Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, has grown up with technology, making them well-suited to integrate advanced tools into construction workflows. This generation's innate tech skills can help streamline tasks and enhance project efficiency. Meanwhile, experienced construction professionals nearing the end of their careers can mentor these young workers, passing on vital building knowledge while benefiting from their technological expertise.

Embracing Diversity

Diversity remains a challenge in the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, only 10.9% of construction employees were women, 6.7% were Black, and 2.1% were Asian. Hispanic employees made up over 30% of the workforce, predominantly in field positions with limited advancement opportunities. However, Handshake's report shows promising signs, with 36% of applicants to construction jobs being women.

Cosgriff has observed a gradual shift in this area at LCCC, noting the increasing presence of women in construction classes and work-based learning experiences. This change is vital for fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce, aligning with the values of many Gen Z students.

The Future of Construction

The construction industry is evolving, leveraging technology and diverse talent to address current challenges and future demands. As major tech firms and retailers like Google and Amazon lay off workers, the construction sector's stability and growth prospects become even more attractive. By integrating advanced technologies and welcoming students from varied academic backgrounds, the industry is poised to innovate and thrive.

For instance, Rosentreter noted the need for different perspectives and ideas to drive projects forward. The collaboration between seasoned professionals and tech-savvy newcomers creates a dynamic environment where innovation flourishes. This synergy is crucial for the industry's future, ensuring it can adapt to changing demands and technological advancements.

The construction industry's proactive efforts to attract college students, particularly those with computer and data science backgrounds, are yielding positive results. Through increased outreach, internship opportunities, and a focus on technological integration, the sector is drawing a diverse and skilled workforce. This trend not only addresses current labor shortages but also positions the industry for future success by embracing innovation and diversity.

As construction continues to evolve, it offers a compelling career path for the next generation of professionals, blending stability with the excitement of building the future.

GPRS stands at the forefront of construction services technologies, with breakthroughs such as SiteMap® (patent pending) standing as a testament to our dedication to innovating to help keep you on time, on budget, and safe.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What skills and qualifications are needed to work in the construction industry?

Skills and qualifications can vary depending on the specific role. For entry-level positions, a high school diploma or equivalent may be sufficient. Many roles, however, require technical skills which can be acquired through vocational training, apprenticeships, or certifications. For higher-level positions, such as project management or engineering, a college degree may be necessary. Additionally, physical fitness, attention to detail, and teamwork are important skills in the construction industry.

Is construction work safe?

Safety is a top priority in the construction industry. Employers are required to provide safety training and adhere to strict safety regulations to minimize risks. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandatory on construction sites. While construction work can involve physical labor and some risk, ongoing safety improvements and regulations have significantly reduced the number of accidents and injuries in the industry.

What are the career advancement opportunities in construction?

The construction industry offers a wide range of career advancement opportunities. Entry-level workers can progress to skilled trade positions, supervisory roles, or even project management with experience and additional training. There are also opportunities for specialization in areas such as sustainability, technology, or design. Continuing education and professional certifications can further enhance career prospects in the construction industry.