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Industry Spotlight: Commercial Construction  |  Construction Related Occupations

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Industry Spotlight: Commercial Construction
By Allison Thomas
Tue, 10 Feb 2009

Despite the recent credit crunch and the collapse of the mortgage industry, the commercial construction industry is continuing to grow and thrive, and consistently provides many employment opportunities to veterans. The construction industry is a vast one that represents a plethora of careers. While many people picture the iron skeleton of a building being erected when they think of construction, this industry includes everything from development of infrastructure, to roads and highways, to water control, and supporting functional systems.

With such a myriad of job applications, former service members are finding the transition into the construction industry to be not only appealing, but a good use of their military skill set. Enlisted veterans who served as engineers, plumbers, electricians, and heavy equipment operators often find gainful employment in construction, and construction employers see officers as fulfilling their managerial and supervisory roles. Those finding direct translation into the industry include members of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Seabees, among many others.

Air Force veteran Jeffrey Karls is among the many veterans who found a career in the construction industry. Karls was able to put his experience as Operations and Maintenance Supervisor at Spangdahlem AFB in Germany and Operations Flight Chief at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Iraq into use with his new employer, a billion dollar commercial construction firm. “The skills I developed in the military come into play every day. Particularly the management of large budgets, groups of people, and resources,” Karls explains.

Veterans do not, however, always need to be trained in a construction specialty in order to find a career in the industry. In fact, it is not necessarily their technical skills that attract employers to veterans but their ability to learn and adapt quickly. Veterans often move from one assignment to the other every few years. In the process, they develop and hone the ability to learn a new job in order to meet mission objectives. Due to their constant training and development in a variety of skills, veterans make excellent prospects.

This is not to say that life in the construction industry is easy. According to Karls, there is more pressure in civilian construction. “In the military, if a project goes over budget, the taxpayer foots the bill,” Karls explains, “In the private sector, one bad decision can wipe out your profits.” Daniel Matherly, a Navy veteran and Field Engineer at one of the largest construction companies in the world, agrees that choosing a commercial construction career path is a big decision. “I will only recommend this career path to those who want to truly work for their paycheck,” he affirms.

The outlook for the construction industry remains strong. As of December 2007, this industry was one of the largest industries, employing 7.7 million people. According the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, this number is expected to grow by 10% over the next seven years. Orion International continues to successfully place veterans into this growing industry through such companies as Clark Construction Group, Morris Shea Bridge Company, RQ Construction, and Turner Construction.