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August 16, 2023

Kate Urban, Sr. Research Writer

Industry spotlight: Record talent demand in construction is creating opportunities for Gen Z

How a new generation is unlocking progress on the labor shortage, technology adoption, and diversity.

Key findings

  • Construction companies are turning to early talent to meet record-high labor demand. Construction employers increased outreach to students on Handshake by 46% over the past year, and significantly increased internship postings for certain functions.
  • Early talent is drawn to stable, high-paying jobs in construction. Applications to architecture, drafting, and construction management roles have risen by more than 40% on Handshake in the past year.
  • With big tech faltering, tech majors are increasingly excited about construction roles. Applications to construction industry roles from computer science and data science majors more than doubled over the past year.
  • Gen Z is poised to bring much-needed diversity to the construction industry. Women make up only 10.9% of the current construction workforce, but account for 36% of applicants to construction jobs on Handshake.

Early-career talent is poised to play a critical role in addressing the construction worker shortage

Labor demand in the construction industry is at a historic high. According to an analysis by the trade association Associated Builders and Contractors, the industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2023 alone. Additionally, nearly 1 in 4 construction workers is over age 55, which means retirements are rapidly whittling away at the workforce.

The funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is further increasing the need for skilled workers to fill construction roles. McKinsey estimates that in 2028, the industry will be facing a shortfall attributable to the BIL of more than 160,000 workers in the contractor and subcontractor sector, 145,000 workers in the materials sector, and 40,000 workers in the engineering and technical services sector.

On Handshake, construction job creation has been highest over the past year in states that are receiving the most BIL funding—including California, Florida, and New York. And job openings in several of the states receiving the most per-capita funding, including Alaska, Wyoming, and Vermont, have increased significantly on our platform in the past year.

The record talent demand in construction presents an opportunity for early-career hires to step in, and for employers to start developing their next generation of leaders. Our data shows that construction companies are recognizing the importance of early talent—employers in this industry have significantly increased outreach to potential candidates on Handshake over the past year, messaging 46% more students compared to an increase of just 19% across all industries. Construction employers have also increased intern hiring in certain functions; for example, engineering internship openings at construction companies have increased by 12% year over year.

With the industry outpacing job and wage growth expectations even in an uncertain economy, early talent is demonstrating growing interest in construction careers. Total applications to roles such as architecture, drafting, and construction management have risen by more than 40% on Handshake in the past year, compared to an average increase of 26% across all roles on our platform. Internship applications are following similar trends; for example, applications to architecture internships have increased by more than 60%.

Many colleges and universities are actively encouraging students’ interest in construction careers. Dr. Jose Faria, Endowed Chair of the Moss Department of Construction Management at Florida International University (FIU), shared that “Given the growing demand for construction management positions, we promote students' job applications during their studies by organizing a Career Expo specifically for Construction Management students twice a year.” Dr. Faria added that “The Construction Management program at FIU offers a flexible schedule, enabling students to pursue daytime work and attend evening classes.”

Early-career tech talent could transform how the construction industry operates

Technology solutions such as integrated project management software, 3D printing, and augmented reality could dramatically improve efficiency and safety in the construction industry. But companies in this space have typically been slow to adopt new tech. A KPMG report found that only 16 percent of construction executives say their organizations have fully integrated available construction technology systems and tools, and just 6 percent have automated all or most of their business processes.

To close these gaps, the industry will need an influx of tech-savvy employees. More than a third of construction companies say a lack of skilled labor is preventing them from adopting new technology. Fortunately, construction is one of several industries that’s become more appealing to early-career tech talent over the past year in the wake of layoffs and hiring freezes at major tech firms. Applications from tech majors to construction industry roles on Handshake increased by 70% over the past year, compared to an average increase of 60% across all industries, and applications from computer science and data science majors were up by more than 100%.

Not surprisingly, growing interest from tech majors is also reflected in an uptick in applications to tech roles in the construction industry. Total applications to tech roles at construction companies increased by 84% over the past year, compared to an increase of 44% across all industries.

The following are some of the most popular construction companies with tech majors on Handshake, based on a combination of applications, job views, and employer profile views:

Diversity is a longstanding challenge in construction—Gen Z could change that

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022 only 10.9% of construction employees were women, just 6.7% were Black, and a mere 2.1% were Asian. And although Hispanic employees make up more than 30% of construction workers, they’re often in lower-level positions with limited opportunity for advancement.

Diversifying the construction workforce is an increasingly urgent priority for the industry. With women and people of color making up an increasing share of the US workforce overall, recruiting diverse talent will be essential to addressing the construction labor shortage. Research shows that diverse teams realize higher profits, and that safety outcomes may improve when construction teams are both diverse and inclusive. Construction companies that bid for federal government contracts are also required to demonstrate that they’re creating opportunities for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups.

Building a more diverse and inclusive construction industry will take effort and commitment from all stakeholders, and there’s no quick-fix solution. But there are signs Gen Z is already pushing the industry in the right direction. On Handshake, women accounted for 36% of applications to jobs in the construction industry over the past year, and students of color accounted for more than 60%. These general trends also hold for specific, in-demand construction roles such as civil engineering, architecture, and construction management—in all three of these functions, women and students of color are significantly better-represented among Handshake applicants than in the industry as it currently stands overall.

Matt Rosentreter, Talent Generation Manager at employee-owned construction leader Burns & McDonnell, says Gen Z talent is especially important to diversity progress. “GenZ is one of the most diverse generations to ever enter the workforce,” he explains. “Their unique perspectives and diverse skill sets will be critical to addressing the upcoming challenges facing the construction industry.”

Laura Cosgriff, Construction Program Coordinator for the Division of Engineering, Business, and Information Technologies at Lorain County Community College, has seen growing interest in construction among students with a wide range of backgrounds and identities. In particular, she says “more female students are enrolling in the construction program and taking advantage of work-based learning opportunities available at our institution.” The program offers a variety of hands-on learning opportunities, which Cosgriff says are increasingly seen as valuable by both students and industry partners.

The construction industry is building toward an even brighter future

Major infrastructure investments will create huge opportunities for construction companies over the next few years. To seize the moment, those companies will need to hire more skilled workers, speed up technology adoption, and attract a wider range of diverse talent. Top employers are already turning to Gen Z to help them meet those goals, and Gen Z is answering the call. It’s clear that early-career professionals are poised to make a profound impact on the construction industry, and we can’t wait to watch their work unfold.


Industry classifications are based on employer self-identification on the Handshake platform. All companies that self-identified their industry as either Construction, Construction & Engineering, Civil Engineering, or Architecture & Planning were included in the overall construction industry analysis.

Application trends are based on applications to full-time jobs and internships by students and alumni on the Handshake platform between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2023.

Employer popularity is based on a weighted average of applications per job, job views, and employer profile views between June 1, 2022 and June 1, 2023.

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