Building with a purpose: Exploring construction careers that make a difference
Construction is essential to many facets of your life. Homes, bridges, office buildings, highways and more rely on the hardworking individuals on building crews. Working in this sector makes a difference in people’s lives, and some go above and beyond to improve their community with their contributions. Here are meaningful careers to consider and how you can positively impact those around you.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the job market for electricians will grow by 6% over the next decade, making it an in-demand position in the construction industry. Electricians are becoming more crucial as the world focuses on power consumption. These professionals assist property owners in reducing their energy usage and increasing efficiency in their buildings. On the construction site, they must have excellent communication skills to ensure their and everyone else’s safety.
The electrician field and construction industry predominantly consist of men, but some women aim to challenge the norms and inspire others. Lungile Mkhize, a South African native, became an electrician in 2019 after starting her apprenticeship in 2016.
Mkhize says she encountered skepticism and pushback along her career path but stayed determined. She says she wants to empower other women to pursue an electrical career because many don’t make it far. Her goal is to foster equity in construction and encourage women to pursue their dreams in the field.
Addressing excessive power consumption starts with promoting renewable energy. Solar panels have increased in demand as more organizations worldwide use this source. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says solar energy accounts for 4.5% of the world’s electricity generation, increasing by 26% since 2021.
Solar power’s increased demand means a continued rise in the solar installer job market. The BLS says solar photovoltaic installers see 22% job growth between now and 2032, faster than the national average for most jobs. These professionals install and maintain solar panels to ensure they work correctly and reduce the strain on electrical grids.
Some countries don’t have reliable power grids, making electricity unreliable in developing nations. However, organizations like the United Nations, the World Bank and others aim to bring solar power and stability to affected communities. These entities financially support businesses serving their communities with renewable energy.
For example, M-Kopa Solar is a Kenyan startup acquiring 100,000 monthly customers due to its recent capital buildup. This company provides solar panels and jobs in East Africa and has expanded operations to Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Residents can heat and cool their homes and care for their loved ones easier with this technology.
Heavy Equipment Operator
Large buildings require giant machines with skilled heavy equipment operators. These professionals have specialized training to navigate bulldozers, excavators, cranes and loaders. The BLS says the median pay for construction equipment operators is about $51,050 annually, with a 3% market increase this decade. While the growth is slower than in some construction occupations, heavy equipment operators still positively impact their communities.
The Western United States is vulnerable to wildfires from April until October when the weather is drier and hotter. California, Alaska, Oregon and other states must take great care of their communities to ensure they stay safe during the spring, summer and early fall.
Mann’s Clean Up Service, an Arizona-based company, has used bulldozers for over 20 years to prevent wildfires. Each year, business owner Pat Mann and his daughter, Cortnee, navigate their heavy equipment around the terrain to cut fire lines and reduce the spread of wildfires in the forests. Their contributions have been critical when fighting fires in the Grand Canyon and other vital ecosystems.
Architects are the brains behind the construction operation. These professionals are essential when constructing new buildings or overhauling existing structures. Nowadays, architects must adhere to strict standards, inspiring many to become more efficient in planning.
Keeping costs low and sustainability high is imperative for modern architects, so some companies have turned to off-site construction. This strategy utilizes building information modeling to design structures, reducing the number of skilled workers and saving time on each project. Architects are essential in ensuring safety and affordability in single-family and multifamily structures. Sustainable construction means comfortable and attractive living for all inhabitants.
California is dealing with a housing crisis, so architects have stepped up to the plate to address the situation. One example is Kanner Architects, based in Los Angeles. The Kanner family has worked in Southern California for nearly 80 years and recently designed an affordable housing project.
This Santa Monica structure, 26th Street Affordable Housing, has stormwater runoff to increase environmental consciousness and other amenities to help residents live comfortably. The building also has highly insulated walls to mitigate traffic sounds from the nearby roads.
A construction manager role could be for you if you like being the boss. This position makes you responsible for projects from their initial planning until the occupants have moved in. Your primary concerns revolve around the budget and timeline. You must ensure the building doesn’t waste materials and stays on track to finish on time.
People skills are also essential, as you must hire subcontractors, laborers and any other professionals necessary for the job. Balancing relationships and ensuring top-notch communication are vital in getting the job done and keeping everybody safe. The BLS says construction managers typically earn a $101,480 salary and expect a 5% job market increase this decade.
Finding the right people for the job is becoming more complex for construction managers as the industry needs help to fill positions. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) says construction businesses must hire about 546,000 workers in addition to the average hiring pace to meet modern demand. This predicament, combined with social justice movements, has spurred a revolution to increase diversity in the sector’s different niches.
Construction businesses nationwide have improved their diversity and inclusion to empower their workers and foster healthy working environments. For example, Georgia-based Bryson Constructors Inc. won a National Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Excellence Award from ABC in 2023. This general contractor is a minority-owned enterprise in southwest Atlanta and Fulton County.
Bryson Constructors prioritizes executing diversity and inclusion to ensure it aligns with client goals. The business has a Value Added Partnering (VAP) program to enhance equity in the community and ensure minority firms get the same opportunities as other local enterprises.
Impacting Positive Change in Your Community
Construction is an essential industry in the United States and worldwide. Each niche positively contributes to building projects with an important role. Construction managers, architects, heavy equipment operators, solar installers and electricians are only five of the many meaningful careers you can take on. Each lets you positively impact your community and others by increasing efficiency, diversity and safety.