Amy, Have you ever considered becoming a welder?”

welderTired of prospects who never return calls, clients who don’t provide direction or bosses who drop 10 pounds’ worth of work on your desk at 5pm? Well, perhaps, welding is the answer. Or carpentry. Or plumbing for that matter.

I mention those crafts because, get this, the National Center for Construction Education and Research (or, the NCCER, if you prefer) has just launched a recruiting campaign aimed at video gamers and, yes, Virginia, white collar workers. The multi-year campaign is entitled, ‘Build your future.’ Clever double entendre, no?

The trade group’s spokesperson says the campaign’s goal is to both correct misperceptions about, say, welding AND attract gamers and knowledge workers who already possess great eye-hand coordination.

“The joysticks used on cranes are identical to those used in, say, Mortal Kombat. And, because they played video games for so long, Millennials are ideal candidates to become mobile crane operators,” says L.J. Zielke, president of Allied Career Training, an apprenticeship program for crane operator wanna-be’s. Gee, how did I not make that obvious connection?

So, what’s driving the big construction industry recruiting initiative? Young people simply don’t want to work in a job they see as both dirty and backbreaking. (BTW, I know a few PR firms that have been described the same way.) Hence the re-branding, re-positioning and marketing campaign.

And, get this: there’s even an outreach aimed at young women by the Women Construction Owners and Executives (or, WCOE, if you prefer). “Construction is where it’s at right now,” proclaimed WCOE’s Lee Cunningham. “We make good money and work regular hours.” Plus, they get to wear those way cool, Star Wars-type helmets with the attached visors.

Somehow, I think the construction and welding fields might have issues attracting most women to a field that is notorious for grimy, greasy, older guys who whistle and shout catcalls at every female who passes by on the street. But, hey, what do I know? Besides, says Cunningham, the various trade groups are providing mentoring programs for young women and, get this, male construction workers are embracing the changing gender ratio. Yeah, sure. And, there will be peace in the Middle East by September 1st.

Still, it’s fascinating to see an old-line, rust belt profession like construction try to freshen up its image.

That said, making construction, welding and plumbing look sexy to smart, gaming Millennials is akin to building a new Mt. Rushmore.

I just can’t picture the day when our superstar senior account executive, John Doe, walks into my office, closes the door, sits down and announces, “Steve, I’ve loved every minute of my time at Peppercomm but, truth be told, I’m dying to operate a crane. So, I’ll be joining Sal & Paulie’s Construction Company as a trainee this coming Monday.”

One final note: if the construction industry can reinvent itself, who else might follow suit:
– Taxidermists
– Shepherds
– Bricklayers
– Toll booth operators?

The potential is enormous. And, if I were Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of PR Firms, I’d worry less about losing talented PR employees to our colleagues at advertising and digital agencies and focus, instead, on combating the appeal of that welding gig outside her Park Avenue office. It’s quite possible our best and brightest may soon be building high-rises instead of clients’ image and reputation.

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