Give This Article to a Kid You Want to Help

John WilliamsEconomy, Education, President's Message, Workforce Development, Young Professionals

Our nation continues a great economic boom. We have historically low unemployment, the stock market is at record highs, and yet many of today’s youth entering the workforce are just surviving instead of thriving. There are a combination of issues fueling this crisis—and homebuilders want to help solve it.

When I was growing up, there was a strong national message that going to college was the only way to be successful. Everyone needed to go or you were a loser.

This message overshadowed the reality that, for many, they would also dig a deep financial debt that would burden them for years to come. I’ve been astounded to learn more about how bad this burden has become.


A recent Bloomberg Businessweek analysis found that because of the skyrocketing costs of continuing education, most U.S. student loan borrowers are stretching out their loan payoff to avoid astronomical monthly payments. As a group, loan borrowers are now paying down about 1% of their federal debt each year. At this rate, some will actually owe more money after two years of minimum payments. In addition, it may take up to 100 years to pay it off.

To complicate things further, many college graduates learn that a degree doesn’t guarantee a fruitful career and while school has prepared them for many things, few young people understand what it costs to live on their own.

A “living wage” calculator was developed by academics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to estimate the cost of living in your community or region based on typical expenses. The tool helps individuals, communities, and employers determine a local wage rate that allows residents to meet minimum standards of living.

For Harris County, the living wage for an individual without student loan payments was almost $25,000. That amount doesn’t include student loan payments, happy hour with friends, cable TV, the newest iPhone, or countless other things many of today’s youth consider “necessities.”

Many students find it difficult to get a job in their field of education and wind up looking for entry level work just like those without degrees and the corresponding starting salaries fall far short of the living wage.

The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 an hour. Working 40 hours a week would total $15,080 per year before taxes.

This is about half what an individual with an average amount of student loans would need just to make a living wage. The addition of the student loan burden could easily be avoided if our youth chose a career that didn’t require a degree.

Fortunately, there are many high paying opportunities readily available in the construction field.

Texas has four of the top 10 housing markets in the state and the industry continues to suffer from a shortage of construction workers and professionals. Many high-paying jobs go unfilled as our youth do not understand the missed opportunities. We need a clear and unified message to them to take a harder look at a career in construction.

Keeping in mind some of the numbers from earlier, construction salaries should sound very enticing. According to statistics pulled from on jobs recently placed in the greater Houston area, a plumber makes about $58K a year, an electrician makes about $52K a year, an HVAC technician makes about $55K a year, and a construction manager pulls in $80K+ a year.

These salaries are readily available for people who want to learn a skilled trade and create a great life for themselves. Many in construction will tell you these numbers actually look like pretty conservative estimates. With some experience and career development advice, many can go on to start companies of their own and the earning potential has no limits.

The GHBA wants to help the construction labor shortage and get more kids involved in bright futures in construction. We support several initiatives to do so, such as: the Jones Academy, the Scholarship Program, and even helping to start Houston’s first Home Builders Institute in Acres Homes.

I encourage you to rip this article out and give it to a kid who needs direction. Help them create a bright future in construction. If they are looking for a job or additional resources, the members of the GHBA will be here to support them.

About the Author

John Williams

2019 GHBA Board President John Williams is a local home builder with K. Hovnanian Homes.