Tyler Felice-Jennings, an Assistant Project Manager here at VIP, brings a tremendous amount of energy and eagerness to the workplace. We were able to slow him down just a bit to discuss what it is like to be a millennial in the construction industry. He opens up about his background, which led him into the construction industry, and shares his thoughts on how to attract his generation and future generations to the field.
Tyler’s journey into the construction field was unique and began while a high school student at Nottingham, where he gained an appreciation of the built environment.
Q: The road to get you where you are today; what did that look like?
A: While I was in high school, I took a few classes that were architecturally based. During this time, I learned SketchUp, which drove the idea of going into the arts. I quickly realized that a degree in Fine Arts would not support a healthy financial future. After completing one year at Onondaga County Community College, I went back to speak with an older teacher, who I considered a mentor. With his help, I ended up receiving a degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Building Science/Design from Adelphi University. Upon graduation, I ended up in New York City as an Energy Consultant, working on the Energy Efficiency Program for building owners. I soon realized I wanted more for a lifelong career and decided to go back to school where I received a Master in Sustainable Energy from SUNY Environmental Science & Forestry.
Q: Ok, it is clear that the construction industry was not your first choice, so how did you end up in this industry?
A: You are right, it was not my first choice; but I always had an interest in buildings. It finally dawned on me that I wanted a career path that would allow me to be hands-on, to understand how things come together and know I had a hand in making what stands in front of me possible.
Q: As you are working in construction now, you can see that more baby boomers are retiring and fewer millennials are entering the industry, why do you think that is?
A: I believe it has a lot to do with following from generation to generation. Many parents do not want their children going into construction because they do not see it as a suitable career path, they want them to follow their footsteps instead. I think technology is a growing industry and at the forefront, in today’s market place so less young people are seeking a career as skilled labor. Millennials don’t seem to be going into construction or at least it is not their first choice.
Q: I know technology has played a part in millennials not entering the skilled labor force, but do you see other factors the might be a contributor as well?
A: Construction, in my mind, is still seen as a blue-collar job and many in my generation pursue white-collar jobs. My generation has grown up with movies that glamorize the wealth you can make from working on Wall Street and alike. Construction is not seen as glamorous or as a lucrative career path. We have grown up in a generation that focuses all their time on technology. I think if we opened the eyes of the younger generation and show them all the possible opportunities, more will be willing to go into the trades.
Q: Ok, so how do we open the eyes of the younger generation to view the trades as a career path?
A: That starts with mentors. We need more mentors in high schools that are willing to show students all the possible opportunities, aside from college. Students will hit roadblocks because they are not sure what they want to do after high school if they do not want to go to college. When working in construction, you leave a lifelong legacy behind. We just finished working on the True North Center for Children and are able to drive by it and be proud of the work that was done. The team can see all the hard work that was put into that project and be proud of what they are leaving behind.
Q: Say there are more mentors in high school now, how can they showcase construction as a career?
A: Bring in outside companies. When I was in high school, there were little to no companies involved in outreach programs for skilled craft workers. Actually, not only in high school but college too. If a company has an apprenticeship, they should be coming to different schools to discuss what opportunities they have. Show how apprenticeships can lead to successful career paths with respect to experience and income. If we can increase the amount of on-campus presence or outreach programs for students, we have a higher chance of getting more millennials to view construction as a career that leaves a lasting masterpiece for future generations to appreciate.