More than six decades of business in Alabama and Northwest Florida gives Thompson Tractor Company a well-rounded perspective on the way construction has evolved.
At the onset of the company business in 1957, our nation was building the interstate highway systems, and there was a huge demand for heavy machinery and road building equipment. Though times have changed, Thompson Tractor continues to provide heavy equipment such as bulldozers, scrapers, and graders necessary for road building and other construction projects throughout the region. We also stay abreast of current trends and changes in the construction industry.
Now we are seeing enormous opportunities in the construction industry in Alabama, alongside some stiff challenges. More work is being requested than ever before (at least in certain markets) while certain costs are also rising. The opportunity for driven firms has never been greater.
Construction Industry Career Outlook for Alabama in 2018
Today’s trends bring new opportunities, as well as challenges, for all companies, laborers, and services connected to the construction industry in Alabama. Overall, we're experiencing great growth, tempered by rising costs. At the outset of 2018, the Associated General Contractors of America released a survey titled Expecting Growth to Continue: The 2018 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook. As the title suggests, this survey of AGC's members demonstrated that most people in the construction industry had high hopes that 2018 would be a year for more business and more hires.
Though the Alabama firms surveyed were generally a bit more guarded in their optimism compared to the rest of the nation, they still expected good things for the year ahead. A majority of Alabama firms surveyed said they planned to hire more workers in 2018, and a little over half said they expected 2018 to be a big year, with a little more than a third hoping it to be the same and only 8 percent expecting a decline.
Interestingly, while Alabamans expected increases in certain types of projects, they predicted declines in others. For instance, half of those surveyed expected manufacturing projects to bring in more money in 2018 than it did last year, and 36 percent expected money from work on public buildings to decline from last year. So, while expectations for business in 2018 are generally high, opportunities will likely be more prevalent in some areas of the market than in others.
As this year has progressed, the numbers have not disappointed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 36,000 new construction jobs were added in January alone. The job outlook for construction equipment operators continues to look very promising. The total number of jobs for construction equipment operators was 426,600 in 2016 and is expected to grow to include 52,700 more jobs by 2026 — that's a growth rate of 12 percent.
How to Get Started in Construction
The steady growth in the construction industry is also a cause for some concern since skilled workers are getting harder to find. Five years ago, Go Build Alabama called on Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe to help raise awareness of the ongoing need for skilled laborers to enter the construction workforce. In 2018, Alabama — like the rest of the country — continues to experience a shortage of skilled construction workers.
With both expectations for the future and hiring needs high, this year is the perfect time for you to take steps to begin a career in construction. If you're interested but want to learn more, try touring a job site or talking to a journeyman in the field. If you're ready to get started, there are two main ways you can receive training — through an apprenticeship or post-secondary schooling.
You could jump right in and apply for a job as an unskilled laborer — this can be a suitable way to introduce yourself to construction work and gain some skills along the way. However, if you want to make the most of your construction career, receiving more formal training is a great initial investment. The opportunities and training are available to anyone with the desire and initiative to learn and grow.
Alabama offers an extra boost to students with their Go Build Alabama program. The program is designed to help high school and college students to consider the benefits of a career in construction management and the skilled trades. Career counselors from Go Build Alabama help interested students map out a plan for a two-year program, a four-year program or apprenticeships.
Since the construction industry needs skilled laborers, the industry as a whole is looking for ways to help those who are interested in a construction career to gain the skills they need. One significant result of this is the ThinkBIG program, which Cat dealers support. The program connects dealers and colleges to teach students the necessary skills to service Cat equipment through comprehensive classes and on-the-job experience gained through internships.
In the Southeast, dealers partner with South Georgia Technical College. The program takes two years to complete, and you'll finish with an associate's degree in applied science. As part of their commitment to the construction industry — and to the state of Alabama —Thompson Tractor offers scholarships through the ThinkBIG program.
However you go about receiving your training, the great news is that you don't need to invest a large chunk of time and money on a four-year degree. Instead, you can jump right in and begin learning useful skills that will serve you on the job site.
Construction firms are searching for skilled workers to operate and service construction equipment, and several positions are readily available for those who have received the necessary training. Scholarships, apprenticeships, and training are available to men and women who are ready to commit.
Top Jobs in Construction
Construction jobs are beginning to capture attention as not only valid but ideal options for many people to consider. Indeed published a list of the 25 best jobs for 2018, and a whopping nine of them were construction-related. In fact, construction was represented far more than any other industry.
The position of commercial project manager was awarded the top spot on the list. Notably, every job featured on the list is associated with a base salary of at least $75,000. Of course, many construction jobs have much lower wages than this, but if you're willing to learn and grow in your career, you could advance to eventually occupying a more prestigious position.
According to the BLS, the constructions workers bringing home the biggest paychecks include:
- Project managers
- HVAC technicians
- Elevator installer and repair persons
- Crane operators
In aiming toward specific careers, it's essential to remember money isn't everything. You should also pay attention to projected growth and opportunities within the field. Based on BLS's projections, there are certain areas where you may want to focus your attention. These projections were taken from both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas of Alabama.
All areas of construction — from residential and commercial to heavy construction and engineering — have steadily increased from June 2017 to June 2018. Alabama’s construction growth reflects the national trends, but, as predicted, some segments of construction are stronger than others. Infrastructure projects, such as highways and water and sewer, appear to be the most substantial areas of growth, with public building and higher education bottoming out the list.
The construction industry leaders are waiting for the current government administration to more definitely commit to funding for infrastructure in Alabama and throughout the country. Infrastructure typically includes a variety of projects, such as road building, power, and water and sewer. One example of the potential wage earnings — the median wage for pipefitters is $52,900 a year. Fortunately, the demand for pipefitters in apprenticeships across the nation is growing.
As the demand for machine operators in Alabama and the region expands, Thompson Tractor Company has found their own need for qualified employees to include the following:
- Heavy equipment technicians
- Earth-moving sales representatives
- Power systems rental coordinator
When determining which construction job is best for you, consider factors like your experience, your interests, desired lifestyle, and opportunities where you live. Take advantage of this wide-open field to choose an area that fits you best.
Growing Opportunities for Veterans
The growing demand for qualified construction workers creates opportunities for the construction industry to reach out and provide promising careers for U.S. Veterans. Several programs and financial support aim to help veterans secure training and employment in the industry. Interested veterans or their family members can search for local and national programs — including the United Veterans Housing Coalition.
There are so many great reasons to hire veterans for the construction industry, including that they:
For these reasons and more, construction is one of the best industries for veterans, and the Associated Contractors of America is focusing its efforts on attracting veterans to the construction industry. Many veteran advocate groups centered on construction opportunities for veterans are developing throughout the country such as Hiring Our Heroes and Build Your Future.
If you are a United States Veteran, you may have entered the U.S. Military partly because you wanted to give your time to more invigorating work, rather than sitting in an office or cubicle all day. Construction is a great way to do something you can enjoy and take pride in while staying active.
If you are a veteran and are interested in a job in construction, you can learn more at G.I. Jobs and start preparing for a new start toward a promising future career. G.I. Jobs also provides veterans with information on education and entrepreneurship — if you are ambitious, this could be an opportunity to start your own construction business.
Why This Is a Great Time to Start a Career in Construction
As we've discussed, the construction industry as a whole is growing, which is perhaps the biggest reason to jump on the opportunity. If that's not enough, there are plenty of other advantages, too. Construction companies are recruiting much-needed workers by emphasizing some essential benefits of a career in construction in 2018:
- Rising Salaries: The job market is competitive, so your work is highly valued and rewarded with good pay. According to Indeed.com, construction workers in Alabama earn $12.30 an hour on average, but some make more than twice that. Construction managers in Alabama bring in an annual salary of over $77,000. You may also be offered extra bonuses for performance at your construction job.
- Advancement Opportunities: Lots of great training opportunities are available to help you get started in your career, and the possibilities don't end after you start. Many construction companies invest in employee training and development since they want you to succeed and advance in your career.
- Innovations in Safety: Technological advancements have made it easier to monitor equipment and its use through tools like telematics, wearable technology, and drones. So, construction sites have never been safer. With the proper training, you can quickly learn how to stay safe on the job site.
- Innovations in Technology: The digital age has opened up new opportunities in the construction industry for those who happen to be interested in technology and construction. This new field, which combines the areas of construction, engineering, and technology, is termed con-tech. Students of con-tech learn the principles of engineering and construction, as well as how to use those skills to manage and supervise construction projects.
Let's take a closer look at this exciting new trend of technology in construction. Advancements in technology will provide an extra edge to construction companies that are willing to invest and train their employees. Continued developments in the use of self-guided machinery, laboratory simulations and unmanned aerial vehicles — more commonly called drones — have the potential to help construction managers save time and stay in line with project budgets.
The use of drones provides construction managers with increased accuracy, extensive data and the ability to monitor safety at work sites. Safety has always been a priority in the construction industry, and new advancements in con-tech help to make job sites safer while also attracting a younger workforce.
Drones can survey sites and collect earthwork information long before groundbreaking begins. Then, construction managers and engineers analyze this data at their offices before ever visiting the construction site. The FAA must approve the use of a drone, and operators must go through specialized trained to avoid hazards in the field.
Caterpillar, Inc. continues to develop and push innovation in the heavy machinery industry, with 20 years of experience with self-driving machinery. Other areas of innovation include:
- Drones and photogrammetry
- 3D printing
- Welding simulation technology
- Dynamic gas blending
The increased use of technology is helping construction companies improve their productivity. If the trends continue as projected, most companies will need a combination of trained, skilled workers and advanced use of technology, to stay competitive in the industry.
Join Alabama's Construction Industry in 2018
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about a career in construction, here are several key suggestions to help you get started:
- Research various areas of interest in the construction industry
- Contact your local trade unions to see if they offer apprenticeships in your areas of interest
- Search online for programs in your state, like Go Build Alabama, that provide career counseling to high school or college students interested in a future career in the construction industry
- Contact a local Caterpillar dealer, such as Thompson Tractor, and ask them about opportunities and scholarships for training related to construction and heavy machinery
- Learn more about the ThinkBIG Technician Education Program with Thompson Tractor
If you're interested in joining the construction workforce, don't wait. Make this your year! Our nation needs you to help build the future.