How Arkansas’ construction industry is succeeding in 2023

Between inflation, supply chain issues, a looming recession and more, 2023 is shaping up to be a year of challenges for the construction industry in Arkansas. Those of us in Construction Management and Civil Engineering and Construction at UA Little Rock have a front row seat to meeting one of the industry’s biggest challenges in the coming year: the labor shortage.

I would say that partnerships between industry and higher education are the only way to succeed in the future.

Higher education must encompass the full spectrum of workforce development. has 635 construction project management jobs in Arkansas. Most of them require a college degree in construction management or a related field. Our programs produce dozens of graduates each year, with a 100% employment rate, but educators cannot solve this problem alone. We must team up to help people get the training everyone needs to grow and thrive.

Construction must engage young people by offering them a pathway to the American Dream.
The construction industry in Arkansas can provide jobs with health insurance, retirement plans, and the ability to earn enough money to support a family.

Right now, young people are not getting the message. Instead, they have many misconceptions.

A 2022 study by Stanley Black & Decker found that one in five high school students thought the annual starting salary for most skilled jobs was less than $20,000. Arkansas industry leaders such as Bernhard, Clark Contractors, Darragh, Environmental Protection Associates, James A. Rogers, Kinco Constructors, Nabholz Construction, Staley Electric and others invest in our on-campus construction labs and provide real opportunities and Connections. Plus, they benefit from hiring our highly qualified graduates.

Construction needs more leaders willing to create opportunity.
Part of our department’s treasured history is the role Howard Williams played in its founding. More than 30 years ago, at a time when high school shop classes were on the verge of extinction, Howard and a few others had the foresight to know that central Arkansas needed college-level programs. in construction to expand career opportunities for individuals in the field.

As a trustee of the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board in the early 1990s, Howard provided the seed capital for our first classrooms and laid the foundation for our construction management degree. His unwavering support for the education and advancement of young construction professionals in Arkansas has created a thriving program that is now vital to our state economy, showing this forward-thinking vision.

It’s an example of the forward-thinking and generosity that has helped our industry weather its storms, and the kind of leadership we need today.

The construction must accommodate women.
There have never been more opportunities for skilled workers from underrepresented populations to succeed in construction in Arkansas. But currently, only 12% of construction workers are women. We need to hire trailblazing teachers like Gozde Gursoy and Anne Turner here at UA Little Rock who help us understand how to create a more welcoming environment for women off the court. We have to turn to Dr. Cathy Riggins, Howard’s daughter, who runs Vilonia Pathways Academy in partnership with UA Little Rock. She is on the front line in mobilizing the young people we need to tackle the hiring crisis and combat industry stereotypes.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Hank Bray has served as Chair of the Department of Construction Management and Civil Engineering and Construction at UA Little Rock since 2018. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Related Article

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button