Many Opportunities for Construction Workers to Advance Education

Dan Corcoran

Today’s construction industry faces a nationwide labor force shortage, according to Construction trade workers — including excavators, electricians, plumbers, framers, iron workers, dry-wall installers and other specialists — are in short supply. This shortage certainly extends to the state of Alabama, where there is a significant need for skilled workers to enter and fill various construction-related jobs.

Construction Management

In addition, management and support personnel are also vital to the success of the construction site. These roles not only guide the project, but they also provide technical and administration support to field operations. O*Net, a federally funded organization that tracks employment needs in the U.S., indicates an 8% growth in construction management jobs, faster than the national average. According to O*Net, the median annual salary for a construction manager in 2019 was $95,260.

For small- and medium-sized construction companies, management support personnel are often recruited from within the ranks of the organization. Individuals who are skilled at their respective trade, and who demonstrate a talent for leadership or an interest in a specific support function, may be promoted to serve as a foreman, safety manager, superintendent or other critical support position.

Construction Safety

According to a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, construction workers are required to receive training on site-related hazards by a competent person. According to OSHA, a competent person is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions, which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

OSHA principles, such as the excavation, electrical, fall protection and scaffolding standards, also require a competent person to be on site when such operations are taking place. The decision by an employer to designate someone as the site’s competent person could be based on years of experience helping with safety-related issues at construction sites, combined with safety and health training for the given specialty.

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Construction Education

There are other roads for expediting one’s upward mobility within the construction firm. One could take college-level courses in construction management or construction safety. Working in the field while earning a degree simultaneously offers the added benefit of a college education while obtaining experience in construction operations. When looking to fill a position as a construction manager or construction safety manager, construction firms typically desire individuals with a college degree and experience in the field.

For those who work in the construction industry or have an interest in working in that industry, there is and will continue to be a need for both construction workers and managers, especially within the next decade. Individuals with a desire to move into management positions are now in a position to be able to further their education online by attending courses at accredited institutions in the comfort of their own homes.

Dan Corcoran, Ph.D., is the academic program director for Columbia Southern University’s occupational safety and health and environmental management programs. Prior to working at CSU, Corcoran worked for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for approximately 15 years. He has served as a compliance officer, corporate safety specialist and consultant, and has held academic positions at three universities.

For more than 25 years, Columbia Southern University has been a leader in occupational safety and health education. Taught by experienced safety experts, CSU’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in occupational safety and health are recognized by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as Graduate Safety Practitioner Qualified Academic Programs. CSU’s occupational safety and health degree programs meet the educational requirements mandated by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals for the Associate Safety Professional designation (ASP) and the Certified Safety Professional designation (CSP).

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