Go Build America Aims to Recruit Workers by Changing Construction’s Image

Could an aggressive PR campaign help solve the skilled worker shortage?


Construction demand is growing, but the size of the skilled workforce is not keeping pace. For the construction industry, how to recruit more workers — especially young talent — is the question of the day, the year, perhaps the decade.

A workforce development initiative called Go Build America has a solution: Counter the industry’s bad rap among high schoolers and other impressionable career seekers, along with their parents and teachers, with strategic, ongoing PR campaigns.

“We have had decades of kids being told that they shouldn’t go into this industry; there’s no money in it, it’s too dangerous, it’s too dirty,” said Ryan Dwyer, executive director of Go Build America. “That’s why piecemeal campaigns or campaigns that are not aggressive or fully comprehensive don’t work. We are in the business of changing hearts and minds; this is a perception problem that has to be overcome.”

Go Build began as a statewide industry initiative called Go Build Alabama and has made some impressive inroads there. Since its launch in 2010, enrollment in Alabama’s construction-related tech classes has increased 24 percent and applications to apprenticeship programs have risen by 73 percent. Surveys have shown that Go Build influenced more than half of the students now pursuing building careers in the state.

The success of Go Build Alabama inspired Tennessee and California to begin similar programs in the last two years.

Go Build works with a variety of construction associations, workforce development organizations and local departments of education in a state to let young people know about training programs and job opportunities. It reaches audiences through websites, videos, advertisements, collateral materials and grassroots efforts.

On December 11, Go Build America will officially launch a new website, gobuildamerica.com, featuring a database of every construction technology program in the United States. Paying partners will have access to all the marketing and education materials that have been developed. To encourage current workers to stay within the industry and build on their skills, Go Build America will allow companies to post job listings on the site at no cost.

Aggressive mass media and social media campaigns are integral to Go Build, according to Dwyer. The group has helped states develop localized messages and images designed to resonate with their target audience.

“The way that young people interact and engage with information today is totally different than it was five or 10 years ago or even a year ago,” said Dwyer. “Go Build has a comprehensive, multi-platform approach.”

For more information, visit the Go Build America website or contact Ryan Dwyer at [email protected].


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

Image Credit: Go Build America


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