The COVID-19 crisis has dominated the news since March and has affected our lives in every way imaginable. How we work, worship, educate, shop and even play isn’t the same, and won’t be again. One day, we’ll talk about the days of “before COVID” similar to how we discuss flying prior to Sept 11, 2001. However, as with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Y2K, the dot-com bubble and many other crises our nation has endured before, we’ll make it through this, and one day, we’ll be stronger because of this trial.
The current COVID crisis has introduced us to a new term that we weren’t familiar with just a few months ago: “essential worker.” We saw the COVID-19 quarantine and subsequent recession cripple many retailers, hoteliers, and other related industries. As I write this, there are 16 million people unemployed, and the unemployment rate in the hospitality industry is 25%. Many economists predict a large number of retail, hospitality, and restaurant jobs won’t return.
These are sobering statistics, and are even more impactful for our community, which depends on the 14 million tourists that visit us annually. However, in this economic winter there are some green shoots of opportunity if you look hard enough.
The current unemployment rate in the construction industry is 8%. If you look deeper, you’ll find that the unemployment rate for those with a skilled trade, such as electricians, plumbers, welders, and ironworkers, is even lower. On top of the low unemployment rate, current projections show that we’ll need almost 250,000 more skilled trade workers in Georgia by 2022.
These careers as “essential workers” also come with an average hourly wage of $27 per hour, plus benefits. Assuming a small amount of overtime work, one can easily earn $60,000 to $80,000 per year, without incurring any student debt.
So, what does all of this mean for us, now?
Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We have a unique opportunity now to help develop those unemployed, under-employed, and soon-to-be-employed into skilled tradesmen and women with careers, not jobs. It just takes work.
Are you unemployed and wondering what to do next? Are you the parent of a high-schooler and wondering what’s next for your son or daughter? Maybe you’re looking for a career change? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider a career in construction.
There are numerous avenues into the industry for whichever stage of life you’re in. If you need training first, visit the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia at cefga.org, or contact Savannah Tech for options. If you’re ready to get to work, call your local plumbing, electrical, welding and HVAC companies and learn on the job. If you have a strong work ethic and a desire to learn, they’re hiring.
The construction industry is not a consolation prize. It offers a direct path to stable, long-term financial success. It teaches generations that success comes with hard work and that you can be in control of your own destiny. If you’re ready to create an opportunity for yourself in a rewarding career, come join us. Our industry needs you.
Matt West is the president of West Construction Co., a general contracting firm based in Savannah.
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