Juhana Tikkanen

Plastic excavators, bulldozers and cranes fueled by imagination have long captivated toddlers. Now, the construction industry is trying to attract teenagers with realistic computer simulators of those same heavy machines, hoping to build a younger work force.

With the retirement of baby boomers in full swing, the construction industry is grappling with its biggest challenge: refilling its pool of employees. But it faces significant resistance among younger workers. Many of them consider the field unstable after six years of double-digit unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession. Or after constantly being told by parents, teachers and politicians that a college education is paramount, they find the work undesirable.

To attract replacements who grew up playing Call of Duty, some construction companies, unions and schools have turned to simulators that replicate jobs done by heavy equipment, like pushing dirt or lifting steel. Whether it will persuade enough digital natives to embrace hard hats is unclear, but the industry agrees that a revitalization is necessary.


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