Tulsa Tech Battles Oklahoma's Construction Skills Gap

Thursday, October 27th 2016, 10:56 pm
By: News On 6

Experts say thousands of job openings will go unfilled in Oklahoma over the next few years simply because young people don't want to do the work.

State leaders are getting worried about the gap in construction skills facing Oklahoma, and vocational schools like Tulsa Tech are trying to bridge that gap.

High school senior Caden Parsons is in a rare camp. At 18 years old he already knows what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

"Oh, I love it. It's, you know, I've done it all my life so it's just kind of with me. It's hard not to love it - building stuff," he said.

Parsons wants to work for a construction company right after graduating from high school.

But it's getting harder to find students like him.

After working for 46 years in construction, John Antonelli teaches carpentry at Tulsa Tech. He says today's young people don't want to work a trade job.

"Generations go different ways, and this generation is not wanting to work with their hands. They want to work with computers. They want to be just playing video games and things like that," he said.

And that poses a problem for Oklahoma's future.

Oklahoma Career Tech estimates Oklahoma will need 9,685 carpenters, 3,884 bricklayers, 1,117 floor carpenters and 2,500 concrete workers by August 2019.

If those jobs aren't filled, there are real consequences.

"Very few construction workers are going to be working on a whole lot of jobs, and companies won't be able to afford them," Antonelli said.

Part of the solution, he said, is reversing the mindset, convincing young people that even though the work is hard, it's worthwhile.

But some, like Parsons, don't need more convincing.

"Put pride into your work, pride into what you build, at the end of the day, you get to say, 'Hey, I built that,'" he said.

Governor Mary Fallin declared October 'Careers in Construction Month.' It was the first state to receive its proclamation this year.