Build A Career in the Building Trades


By: Kevin Hilton (IMPACT) and Bob Woods (Go Build)

Did you know that the construction industry is projected to grow 22% by 2022 and in some parts of the country, wages have increased more than 10% since last year?  Did you also know that almost nine out of 10 apprentices are employed after completing their programs, and the starting wage upon graduation is $50,000 a year? Opportunity awaits in the skilled trades. Meanwhile, three out of four construction firms are concerned about finding enough skilled tradespeople to keep up with demand. As the average age of a skilled tradesperson hovers around 43 years old, a wave of retirements coupled with misperceptions about careers in the skilled trades continue to make construction industry labor shortages worse. Decades of misperceptions have led young people and their parents across the country to dismiss non-traditional, yet lucrative career paths in the skills trades. It’s time to focus on changing public perception and raising awareness about careers in the skilled trades to open doors to more viable career options for young people graduating high school.

Since 2010, Go Build has been educating the public about the skilled trades by providing information on a variety of training and career options and inspiring young people to pursue careers in the skilled trades. This month, our spotlight is on the Iron Workers’ (IW) earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program. The building trades strive to build a diverse, highly skilled and job-ready work force equipped with hands-on training, on-the-job experience, committed to workplace safety. Apprentices who complete the IW apprenticeship program clock 6,000-8,000 hours of on-the-job training and over 700 hours of classroom training. To ensure a highly skilled workforce, the IW training centers spend between $80 million and $90 million per year on apprentice development, producing anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 graduates annually. Apprentices are paired with multiple employers over the course of the program to diversify their work experience and once journeyman status is achieved, upgrade training becomes a requirement to sharpen and expand skills. As of April 2017, the IW alone reported nearly 80,000 well-trained journeymen and 20,000 apprentices.

Four-year college degrees are not for everyone, but it doesn’t mean that there are no other viable options to make a decent living. In fact, some specialized construction careers pay more than six figures and in the skilled trades, one could start at the entry level and work all the way up to the C-Suite level with training comparable to a four-year college degree. Students interested in honing their hands-on skills should be educated on career pathways in the skilled trades and be encouraged to pursue them with pride. “The IW earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program is an accredited training program that produces high quality tradespeople equipped with critical skills for success,” said Bob Woods, CEO of Go Build. 

“The work that Go Build has done to raise awareness of the career opportunities in the construction industry is in perfect harmony with our efforts at IMPACT and we applaud its accomplishments. It’s not a secret that the IW has partnered with Go Build efforts around the country to foster workforce development,” Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) CEO Kevin Hilton said in an endorsement letter last November. IMPACT is an ironworker-contractor partnership that works to expand job opportunities for the ironworkers and their contractors through progressive, innovative and cooperative programs. “Go Build prides itself on an all-inclusive approach to enhancing the image of the construction industry – promoting every type of credentialed training opportunity including high school shop classes, vo-tech courses, industry association training, Department of Labor (DOL) apprenticeships, building trades apprenticeships, 2 and 4 year programs and more. The IW apprenticeship program and Go Build partnership with IMPACT exemplifies our mission to improve the image of our industry and provide young people all the tools and information necessary to pursue careers in the skilled trades and ultimately achieve success in the industry.” said Woods.


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Young people, along with educators, parents, and influencers, should become familiar with technical training and skilled trades at an early age, so the pursuit of these lucrative and rewarding opportunities carry equal weight as college degrees and higher learning. The future is in your hands – let’s Go Build America!


About Go Build: Go Build is a 501(c)(3) workforce development initiative that seeks to address the current skills gap crisis by enhancing the image of the construction industry and informing young people, parents, educators, and influencers, about opportunities in the trades. Go Build Alabama was launched in 2010 and the program has since expanded into Tennessee in 2016, and California in 2017. Launched in December 2017, Go Build America seeks to address continuing local workforce shortages and provide a national rallying cry for our industry, by providing employers and associations proven outreach and recruiting tools targeted at young people and skilled tradespeople. Go Build’s board of directors is represented by Steve Sandherr of the Associated General Contractors of America, Mike Bellman of the Associated Builders and Contractors and Bob Woods (CEO/President).

About IMPACT: IMPACT is a 501c nonprofit designed to provide a forum for Ironworkers and contractors to address mutual concerns and encourage reasonable balanced solutions. Our primary mission is to expand job opportunities through progressive and innovative cooperative programs. IMPACT members are Ironworker Locals and Signatory Contractors who are committed to increasing the competitiveness and market share of the union ironworking industry.

Grant Prettyman