Allure of the Industry – Is It (Still) There?

by | Oct 26, 2020

Tower cranes flying materials for a high-rise in the downtown skyline. Excavators and loaders moving dirt and installing pipe along the side of the road. Bridges flying over a freeway one berm at a time.

What is it that attracts people to the architecture/engineering/construction industry? Is it seeing those construction projects in action? If so, what aspects of that work entice someone to think about making that a career? At what age do those scenes resonate enough for someone to even start daydreaming about the industry?

For many folks, there was a friend or relative they knew growing up who was in the industry and spoke positively of their experiences. That positivity sparked an idea for a young mind to start exploring A/E/C—even before they had a term for it. For some, there may be a drive to find out “how” and “why” fueling the pursuit to answer those questions that leads them down the path to the A/E/C industry. For others, it may simply be an internal calling.

There is no doubt that the A/E/C industry has always had a special allure to it. Whatever way you look at it, there is something intrinsic that draws people to examine things that have been built, whether technical or aesthetic. Even if you’ve been in the industry for longer than you had originally imagined, you still feel that draw, that pull, and it’s our responsibility to attract the talented people required to keep the industry we love healthy and growing. In a competitive economy, it can be difficult to entice the best and brightest minds that have the potential to positively affect where our industry is headed.

So, how do we win that competition?

I believe we need to reflect on these questions:

  • Are we explaining our industry well enough? Our work requires creative and logical thinking techniques to take a concept into a functioning and, nowadays, a literally living facility. Advancing these techniques to the public would create more open discussion and potentially appeal to those that may not be aware.
  • Are we supporting schools and programs that promote STEM principles? When I was 10 years old, I had no idea my job as an operations manager for water infrastructure was even a career option. (I was still going around saying I wanted to be the Six-Million-Dollar Man!) We have an opportunity to reach out to our younger selves, in the form of students and graduates who don’t know where to take their careers.
  • Are we promoting the dynamism our industry affords? We see progress on our projects every single day! Tomorrow brings not only new challenges, but infinite opportunities to enhance the lives of our clients and end users.

Perhaps most pertinent to our industry are the values held by today’s burgeoning workforce. The newer generation of workers live in a world dominated by technology. It pervades their lives and their livelihoods. And they not only value a paycheck, but how that paycheck impacts the environment and their communities. That means many younger employees are jumping on the tech trend, and perhaps they think that A/E/C is behind the times. In their estimation, we are not part of an exciting, thriving 21st century industry.

But the thing is—we are! There are so many innovations happening daily across our projects. Our industry is right there with the advent of digital innovation. We employ and rely on digital platforms that amplify the creative and technical aspects needed for a successful endeavor. Further, A/E/C has boldly advanced measures for sustainable construction through various methods. Let’s highlight those successful efforts and celebrate how the industry positively affects our communities, both locally and globally. For our industry to continue to survive and thrive, we need to attract the up-and-coming bright minds of tomorrow and show them how they can contribute to our future.

We all have a different story that allured this industry to us, and we apply that mindset in how we accomplish our tasks and achieve our professional goals. For our industry to develop even further and continue to prosper, we need to share our passion for the work and continue to embrace new technology. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. Let’s share the allure of A/E/C with the next generations of the workforce.

Mike Munden, Water Operations Manager, Flatiron

Mike Munden has over 20 years of heavy civil construction industry experience as a key member of project management teams on more than $1.5B worth of construction projects. Mike’s career has focused primarily in the water, wastewater, and energy sectors on projects in the western United States. Mike is an expert on collaborative-delivery methods for public and private clients and his experience and approach promotes collaboration throughout all project phases.