Defining construction career pathways and why they matter

Young man carrying wooden boards at a construction site

This blog post was originally published on Breaking Ground: the NCCER Blog, and was re-posted with permission.


The Construction Labor Market Analyzer reports that by the year 2020, the industry will have a deficit of 1 million craft professionals. As we work to solve this ongoing dilemma by improving construction workforce development programs through training and assessments and offering incentives to entice new recruits, one largely untapped resource is our local career and technical education (CTE) programs.

NCCER Pathways Register Now GraphicIn 2011, the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s report Pathways to Prosperity prompted NCCER to encourage the construction industry to become more engaged with CTE. Over the past five years, NCCER has been instrumental in representing construction in CTE through the creation of its Construction Career Pathways initiative. The initiative was founded to develop and implement a plan created and endorsed by industry and education that helps students acquire the skills they need to succeed in construction career pathways.

What are construction career pathways?

Career pathways have become a hot topic in mainstream media. The National Career Pathways Network defines a career pathway as “a coherent, articulated sequence of rigorous academic and career/technical courses, commencing in the ninth grade and leading to an associate degree, baccalaureate degree and beyond, an industry recognized certificate and/or licensure.”

In light of that, construction career pathways can be defined as a young person’s journey from a high school construction CTE track to technical college, apprenticeship or on-the-job training that leads to either a degree, certification or industry-recognized credential.

The involvement of industry in the development of construction career pathways is crucial. When nourished, these programs can serve as a sustainable pipeline of new talent for staffing projects for years to come. However, in order for students to be successful, these programs need to be current in their methods and technologies, aware of what craft areas are currently in demand and able to recruit young people in order to remain competitive with other industries.

How You Can Help

As an industry representative, you have the knowledge and resources to assist in the development of CTE programs. In fact, research by Louisiana State University and the Educational Research Center of America shows that industry involvement is typically one of the top two determining influences in students’ career decisions. By connecting with education through classroom presentations, site visits, career events, etc., you can provide a true picture of what it is like to work in construction.

To start, visit the Construction Career Pathways website at With research gathered from both industry and education, NCCER has developed guidance documents to provide specific steps to assist you in making meaningful connections. The website houses a step-by-step guide for effective industry-education collaboration and best practice profiles with helpful advice from industry associations, national contractors, educators and more. There are also videos that showcase the stories of young craft professionals.

Secondly, sign up on the website’s connection map. The map identifies which contractors and educators are open to working together in their local communities and how they can help one another.

Lastly, consider attending NCCER’s annual Construction Career Pathways Conference this November in Las Vegas. The conference is held in conjunction with the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) CareerTech VISION Conference and brings together industry and education representatives from throughout the U.S. to develop and build effective construction career pathways.

Construction Career Pathways Conference

Date: Nov. 30, 2016

Time: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Las Vegas Convention Center

Cost: $75 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and an invite-only reception following the event.


By becoming involved in the Construction Career Pathways initiative, you can help shape our future skilled workforce. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. By working together, we can ensure that our future craft professionals receive the proper training and will continue to build America for generations to come.


About the Author

Christina Catron

Christina Catron

Christina Catron is the senior manager of marketing and design at NCCER. Over the past five years, she has assisted in developing several national initiatives such as Construction Career Pathways and Build Your Future. She holds a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and cell science from the University of Florida and an associate degree in digital media technology from Santa Fe College.