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7 tips for government agencies hiring students and recent grads into construction and skilled labor roles

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
July 1, 2024

We reached out to industry leaders for their best strategies regarding government agencies hiring college students and recent graduates into construction and skilled labor jobs. From creating internship and apprenticeship programs to offering competitive compensation and growth, discover the top seven tips provided by HR Managers, business owners, and founders.

  • Create Internship and Apprenticeship Programs
  • Promote Growth and Loan Repayment Perks
  • Showcase Career Development Opportunities
  • Protect Non-Traditional Work Arrangements
  • Align Programs with New Workforce Values
  • Highlight Innovation and Societal Impact
  • Offer Competitive Compensation and Growth

Create Internship and Apprenticeship Programs

The construction field will always need talent. We will always need builders, painters, framers, and people who possess the skills to repair homes and properties. With growth in population, there will be growth in these areas that will provide great opportunities. Don’t overlook the construction industry because you are afraid to get dirty. There are a lot of great people who need leadership that will support and develop them along their career path. That person could be you! To attract college students and recent graduates, a large governmental agency should create internship and apprenticeship programs that provide hands-on experience and mentorship from industry professionals. Additionally, offering competitive salaries and clear pathways for career advancement can make these positions more appealing to young talent.

Brandi Brown, HR Manager, Olshan Foundation Repair

Promote Growth and Loan Repayment Perks

College students and recent grads might not see construction as a long-term career path. Emphasize the opportunities for growth within the agency.

  • Clear career ladder: Outline the different levels within the skilled trades (e.g., apprentice, journeyman, foreman, inspector). Show how experience translates into promotions and higher pay in our industry.
  • Training and Certifications: Promote opportunities to earn certifications that can open doors to even better jobs in the future.
  • Loan repayment assistance: If the agency offers programs to help repay student loans for skilled trades, advertise it! This can be a huge perk for recent grads with student debt.

By showcasing construction as a rewarding career with advancement opportunities, you’ll be more likely to attract young talent looking to build a future.

Jimmy Thurman, Owner, All American Restoration

Showcase Career Development Opportunities

One tip I’d give to a large governmental agency for attracting college students and recent graduates to their construction or skilled-labor positions is to actively showcase the career development and growth opportunities these roles offer. Many young professionals are not just looking for a job but a career path with clear progression, skill-building, and long-term stability.

To do this effectively, the agency should create and promote comprehensive internship and apprenticeship programs tailored to recent graduates. These programs should provide hands-on experience, mentorship from seasoned professionals, and a clear trajectory for advancement. Highlighting success stories of individuals who started in entry-level positions and advanced to leadership roles within the agency can also be very compelling.

Partnering with colleges and universities to offer workshops, career fairs, and information sessions can help bridge the gap between education and employment. These events can demystify the construction and skilled-labor fields, showing students the innovative technologies and sustainable practices being used, which can make these careers more appealing to a tech-savvy and environmentally conscious generation.

Emphasizing the tangible benefits of these positions, such as competitive salaries, benefits, job security, and the opportunity to contribute to meaningful public projects, can attract young talent. Students and graduates are often motivated by the chance to make a tangible impact, and working on public infrastructure projects offers a unique way to do so.

By clearly communicating the career development opportunities, providing hands-on training and mentorship, and actively engaging with educational institutions, a governmental agency can attract motivated college students and recent graduates to their construction and skilled-labor positions.

Michael Benoit, Founder,

Protect Non-Traditional Work Arrangements

For large governmental agencies looking to attract fresh talent from the labor and construction industries, my tip is this: Protect workers in non-traditional work arrangements.

A significant portion of the U.S. workforce is now engaged in alternative work arrangements, such as gig work, independent contracting, on-call roles, online platform work, and temporary agency positions. These non-traditional workers often face challenges such as more unpredictable hours and lower rates of health insurance coverage. Additionally, those labeled—or mislabeled—as independent contractors usually lack the protections afforded to regular employees, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, paid leave, anti-discrimination safeguards, and collective bargaining rights. These work structures tend to shift power away from workers toward corporations, with employers sometimes using them as a means to skirt labor laws.

Government agency policymakers can improve conditions for non-traditional workers by establishing worker-led platforms to provide necessary benefits. For instance, Washington state has considered legislation to create a universal portable benefits fund for independent contractors and gig workers. Similarly, Philadelphia’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights introduced a portable paid sick day program for domestic workers, including house cleaners and nannies. Implementing such measures can make these positions more attractive to college students and recent graduates who might otherwise be wary of entering sectors known for less stable employment structures.

Alex LaDouceur, Co-Founder, Webineering

Align Programs with New Workforce Values

The one tip I’d give to large governmental agencies to help attract college leavers and newly-qualified graduates is to create programs in line with their values. Those freshly moving into the workforce have a different set of values than when I was just starting out. To be attractive, you need to overhaul your hiring strategy, as we and other large construction businesses have. 

Gen Zs value stability, fairness, and a solid work-life balance with an emphasis on mental and physical well-being. Tying all their desires into one program is relatively simple. While large governmental agencies lack the nimbleness of private or smaller businesses, it will take tremendous effort to put this through. 

Working with senior leadership and getting their buy-in will be key. For me, implementing tangible benefits such as savings on failed hires and new hires’ commitment to a long-term position will assure support from key decision-makers.

Richard Ala, Director & Founder, Six Brothers Contractors LLC

Highlight Innovation and Societal Impact

To engage recent graduates in considering construction or skilled labor roles within a governmental agency, I’d recommend highlighting the innovative aspects of modern construction careers, such as the use of advanced technology and sustainable building practices. It’s crucial to dispel any outdated notions about the industry and present it as a field driven by innovation and environmental stewardship.

Marketing these roles through interactive job fairs, virtual reality simulations, and engaging online content can capture the interest of tech-savvy young professionals. Additionally, emphasizing the societal impact of their work, such as building community infrastructures and green buildings, can appeal to their desire to contribute positively to society.

Alan Parkes, Owner, Roofcorp

Offer Competitive Compensation and Growth

Attracting college students and fresh graduates is essential for small businesses and large governmental agencies alike. For us, we’ve focused on providing a well-compensated experience with growth potential. We see more and more candidates applying for entry-level construction and skilled labor positions with experience but little to no qualifications. Given many college students and recent grads face repaying student loans, benefits and growth opportunities need to reflect their financial commitment to the industry. By offering attractive compensation packages, including competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits, along with a fast-track program, the agency will be more attractive to this demographic.

Matthew Consolo, Founder & CEO, Dreamscape Construction Inc

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