PEARL ― October is National Careers in Construction Month, and the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is taking steps to raise awareness of opportunities among industry and education leaders while introducing students to rewarding construction careers.

Spearheaded by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and declared by Gov. Tate Reeves as an official, month-long observance in Mississippi, the annual initiative focuses on statewide strategies to address shortages of craft professionals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction occupations are projected to grow 7 percent through 2030 with about 167,800 job openings for construction laborers each year on average over the decade. The BLS also reports that nearly 357,000 construction jobs in the U.S. were unfilled at the start of 2021 — a trend that’s being felt in Mississippi, Barkett noted.

“By 2023, Mississippi will need more than 80,000 craft professionals to meet the needs of the state's growing construction industry,” said MCEF President Mike Barkett. “Overall growth in the economy and population is increasing demand for new buildings, roads, and other structures. Now more than ever is the time to promote construction careers in our state.”

Barkett noted that fewer students are seeking careers in the construction and manufacturing industries because many parents and guidance counselors are steering them toward a college pathway rather than a vocational route. This leads to challenges given the shortage of skilled workers and the fact that carpenters, electricians, framers, roofers and others in the field earn good salaries and express high job satisfaction.

“What must change are our attitudes,” said Barkett. “We’re working hard to remove the stigma that is too often associated with career and technical education by reframing these careers in the light they deserve. Modern construction and manufacturing jobs are cutting-edge, technologically advanced, academically rigorous and high paying.”

One way that MCEF is observing National Careers in Construction Month is by upping its promotion of the long-term advantages of modern CTE programs is through its Trade Up! awareness campaign. Trade Up! highlights the fact that CTE is becoming the preferred route to career and college success for a growing number of Mississippi students.

“Modern CTE programs provide a solid foundation for the future,” Barkett said. “Students can complete industry-based certification programs and go to work after they graduate or use their specialized training to get a head start on college degrees. In the meantime, they’re exposed to cutting-edge technologies that are highly valued in the job market.”

Technology drives today’s top careers, from engineering and health care to computer science and construction. Modern CTE programs allow students to gain hands-on experience with the latest technologies in real work environments. By the time they graduate from high school, they have impressive résumés on which to build.

Students’ credentials also are portable. CTE programs in Mississippi follow standards set by NCCER, meaning students’ training and credentials are recognized by construction and maintenance industries worldwide.

MCEF continues working with the Mississippi Department of Education and a statewide coalition of business and industry partners to ensure that CTE centers maintain NCCER certifications and provide high-quality training and education programs that give students a foundation for lifelong success.

“The construction industry is a vital part of our state’s economy,” Barkett said. “Our goal at MCEF is to build a pipeline of trade professionals who will power the long-term growth and success of Mississippi’s construction industry. We’re on the right track in our efforts to prepare Mississippians for rewarding futures, and that point will be made clear during National Careers in Construction Month.”

Learn more about MCEF at "Careers in Construction Month" is an initiative of NCCER and Build Your Future ― see for details.

MCEF is the state's leading provider of craft training in high schools, community colleges and apprenticeship programs and partners with the state Department of Education to deliver training to 5,000 high school students enrolled in more than 100 career and technical education centers. MCEF also has articulation agreements with 15 community colleges that enable graduates of the organization’s four-year apprentice program to receive up to 32 academic hours.