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AI Sends Young Workers Back to Construction

With the rise of AI (artificial intelligence), many young workers are now considering a switch from white-collar jobs to blue-collar jobs—or at least that is the most result of a new survey, suggesting Gen Zers are now rethinking where they work. Perhaps this just might be a good opportunity for the construction industry to find the humans they so desperately need to get their projects completed!

Intelligent.com has conducted a survey of 1,000 respondents between ages 16 and 26 in the United States. According to the numbers, roughly 48% of respondents plan to work in the white-collar field, 32% plan to work in the blue-collar field, and 20% are still unsure.

This is a stark contrast to Millennials, who revealed they spent more of their time investing in higher education than ever before. The percentage of young people who immediately enrolled in college after graduating from high school rose from 49% in 1980 to 70% in 2009. Now, Gen Z is a little bit less sure about that career path, it seems.

Of note, even Gen Zers who are choosing to work in a white-collar career field are still somewhat or highly concerned about AI’s impact on the white-collar job market—in fact, 62% claim this specific fact. Another 53% say they are somewhat or highly likely to switch to a blue-collar career, as AI is less likely to affect the skilled trades.

Additionally, the recent layoffs in the technology industry are also impacting this younger generation, with a whopping 82% saying they are somewhat or highly concerned about the recent layoffs and 76% saying their career goals have somewhat or majorly changed within the past six months.

Some write-in responses for jobs that Gen Z is considering include firefighter, construction, healthcare, business owner, and CEO. Interestingly, of those still in college or planning to attend, a small but mighty percentage—24%—say they intend to major in business in an effort to create their own boss.

Perhaps these young workers are on to something. There is a huge need for more workers in the skilled trades—and a lot of opportunity that exists there. Those who work in the construction industry know this.

Results from the Skillit Craft Intelligence Report show continued construction spending and hiring demands will lead to a hot labor market in the year ahead. In fact, there is a big demand for trades in Texas, Calif., and other areas of the country, as infrastructure and manufacturing investment pick up.

All this to say, we need skilled workers now more than ever before, and it seems the younger generation recognizes the opportunity that exists here. Now, how will we encourage and entice these young workers to consider a career in construction—and stay in the career long-term? That is the question at hand—and one I have been studying and discussing in depth recently.

In a roundtable discussion with some powerhouse women from Bentley Systems, we determined young workers need the right guidance, which requires buy-in from everybody—parents, schools, corporations, government, and more. We need everyone to come together to make a difference.

What will you do this week to encourage young workers to consider construction? How can we bring more women into this workforce? How can we leverage technology to attract young workers to the career? It seems these young workers may already be a little interested. Now construction needs to draw them in and keep them there.

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