Building careers and roads

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 8:37 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s worker shortage is building, and at an inopportune time. Both the state and the federal government are putting billions of dollars into North Dakota’s infrastructure. There’s a lot of work to do, but construction leaders say there’s not enough people to do the job.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

NDSU Senior Justin Heimkes made that decision just before graduating high school.

“I just liked building stuff growing up and creative in a way. I always wanted to find solutions to problems and solve complex situations,” Heimkes said.

But many of Heimkes’ peers are picking other career paths.

Like many other industries, North Dakota construction has high demand, but low in available labor.

This leaves companies drilling the labor market for help.

“As an industry, this is something that will be worked on continuously. The needs will always be there. Things are going to need to be built and repaired with critical infrastructure. So those workforce needs will always be there,” AGC Vice President Russ Hanson said.

But building that workforce doesn’t just involve increasing pay and benefits.

One of the bigger deterrents from the industry isn’t the safety, but the optics of going into construction.

“There’s certainly dirty jeans and hammers to be found in abundance, but it’s rewarding to drive by a job site and be like, ‘I formed the abutment for that bridge. It’s hard work. It’s grueling work to be in the field,” Brittany Diedrich with Industrial Builders, Inc., said.

However, advancing technology has made the work more efficient.

To bring more young people into the industry, the state’s Associated General Contractors is giving 25 scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Heimke is among the most recent recipients.

“The money is nice and it’s absolutely beneficial, but just that reassurance that I’m putting myself out there and applying for things and being recognized for the work I’m doing is just huge,” Heimkes said.

And that acknowledgement is what industry leaders are using to build futures and buildings.

The AGC has been offering scholarships since the 1960′s, and has given more than $1.3 million to students to ignite their passions.

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