From a very early age, kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up.

They almost never answer that they want to work in the construction or building trades. That needs to change. Fortunately, some forward-thinking brands are working to make a difference.

There is a severe labor shortage in construction and the skilled trades. We’ve been hearing that for years.

Yes, there are some brands endeavoring to do something about it… by promoting technical schools and offering scholarships for vocational education.

But as high school students are being introduced to the construction industry at the age of 17 or 18, it’s often too late.

When kids are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, their answers range from the fantastical (superhero) to the more realistic — but still adrenaline-soaked (police officer, race car driver) — to the more cerebral (doctor, lawyer, astronaut).

We know they’re influenced by what they see. The movies they watch. The people they interact with in school. And even the games they play.

Traditionally, these influences have almost never included construction or the trades.

If the building industry is going to close the labor gap, however… it needs to appeal to its future workforce at very young ages.

A couple of brands seem to recognize that. And are taking action to appeal to younger generations.

Construction Games

One of the first things many teenagers do when they get home from school — often to the chagrin of their parents — is turn on their video game consoles. The games they play range from fantasy quests with ever demanding levels… to sports and flight simulators.

But what if — instead — they played a construction simulator game?

Well, now they can.

A German video game publisher recently launched a Construction Simulator series, complete with licensing agreements with major construction equipment manufacturers.

Now, kids can construct buildings on their PCs… and even on their phones. Collaborating with other players, to reach a common goal.

Admittedly, a construction simulator game seems far less exciting than, say, Madden or Halo… but the creators of the game say that’s part of the appeal. Players seem to enjoy the more deliberate, relaxed tasks of the game. Compared to the intense action, that many other games offer.

The construction simulator appeals to a niche audience. But with 30 million downloads worldwide — it’s certainly not a small one.

And why not? Other low-key games like Minecraft allow players to “build” worlds. So we can see how a construction simulator just might take off.

Time will tell. Yet it’s certainly a step in the right direction toward capturing the imaginations of young people… and promoting careers in construction.

Tapping a New Labor Pool

Taking a more direct approach, LIXIL Americas — which has decorative brands like Grohe and American Standard under its umbrella — is targeting a largely untapped future labor pool for the plumbing industry: young girls.

The company is partnering with nonprofit organization Tools & Tiaras to teach girls between the ages of 6-14 about plumbing.

By showing girls that they can be plumbers just as well as boys can — and earn a good living doing it — LIXIL is hoping to not only close the labor gap… but also the gender divide in the plumbing trade.

We think this approach is very smart. And has a high likelihood of success.

While the overwhelming majority of plumbers today are men, this isn’t because women aren’t capable… but rather because the profession has never really been promoted to girls.

Women are an untapped labor source for plumbing… as well as nearly all other building trades. By inspiring girls to consider careers in building and construction, programs like this can have an outsized impact on closing the labor gap.

Playing the Long Game

Other building product brands can learn from each of these initiatives. Targeting the younger generation — even if they’re a decade away from being a buying customer — can have long-term benefits.

LIXIL, for example, is not only exposing girls to the plumbing industry… but also to the company’s products and brands.

Even if some girls end up pursing other careers, they will still be in a position to buy a faucet or a sink at some point in the future.. and are likely to think of Grohe and American Standard.

After all — appealing to young people in ways that are fun, inspiring and relevant — will only pay dividends in the long run.

Looking for ways to generate more awareness for your brand among your target audiences? Send an email to to get the conversation started.