Air Date

November 1, 2022

Featured Guest

Stephen Sandherr
CEO, Associated General Contractors of America


Rick Wade
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


The construction industry offers thousands of jobs and the potential for employees to chart their own paths and become small, craft business owners. Leaders such as those in the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) organization continue to make significant strides toward reshaping the narrative around a career in construction and targeting new, diverse talent to join the industry.

During a recent Equality of Opportunity in Action event, Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC, shared progress made in fostering diversity within the industry and discussed where there is still room for improvement.

Employees Have Unique Opportunities in the Construction Industry

In an ever-changing economic climate, the construction industry can offer stability for those looking for work. According to Sandherr, there are over 350,000 job openings in the construction industry and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently updated its average craft worker wage rate to more than $35 an hour. 

On top of that, Sandherr stated that craft workers' training is usually free. There’s also plenty of room for growth, including becoming a small business owner. 

“There are many of my member companies — small, family-owned businesses — that were started by a carpenter or a laborer or a plumber who worked for somebody else and then decided, ‘I'm smart enough to run my own company and make a living at it,’” said Sandherr. “We have thousands of success stories within our membership that tell that story.”

The Construction Industry Is Incorporating DEI Initiatives 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives have been at the forefront of AGC’s business model in recent years with the creation of its Diversity & Inclusion Awards and Culture of Care program.

“Culture of Care is a voluntary program, where construction employers take a pledge to build a more inclusive workplace,” Sandherr explained. “It’s all part of this idea that everybody who's involved in the construction process is a valuable member of the team. And it doesn't matter what you look like, who you love, where you came from, or how you worship. When it comes time to build the project, everybody is together.”

In addition to targeting diversity, AGC has focused on advocating for more mental health awareness, especially in men. 

“Unfortunately, the construction industry suffers from a high mental illness and suicide rate, and a lot of that is because construction is a male-dominated profession,” Sandherr said. “Men … were brought up [to believe] if you're not feeling well mentally, you don't raise your hand and ask for help. And so we're trying to destigmatize that as well.”

Diverse Talent Pools Help Keep Up With Construction Demand

Though the amount of jobs available is good news for job seekers, it can make it challenging for those in the industry to keep up with demand. AGC has started to search in often-overlooked talent pools to guide people into the profession.

“We have a program called Construction Is Essential, and we're targeting lower-income households,” explained Sandherr. “We're trying to target people that are not likely to go to college and try to get them to understand that there are opportunities for them in construction and that there are ways for them to get training so that they can enter the industry.”

Sandherr noted that AGC has been working with HBCUs to attract diverse talent, with formerly incarcerated men and women through craft training conducted in prison and returning veterans.

Future Improvements Include Increasing Diversity

Though the industry has made great strides to support and cultivate diverse talent and reach out to diverse communities, Sandherr notes that there’s more work to be done.

“I'd like to see more African-American plumbers and electricians than African-American CPAs,” he said. “I'd like to see the number of people that are underrepresented and are skilled in crafts increase. I'd like to see more like 30% of the workforce — of the craft workers, craft professionals — be female.”