Seventeen-year-old Kristen Booker already has a job lined up for when she graduates high school this spring. The Alabama teen will begin her career as a welder at Performance Contractors, after she completes the training programs she is currently enrolled in.

To combat the labor shortage, the construction industry is trying to attract more young people, like Booker, by revamping its image. Grassroots recruiters, ad campaigns, and training programs aim to do this by emphasizing the role of technology in the industry and portraying construction jobs as careers.

There’s a strong need for new workers in the industry. Building activity is ramping up and companies are looking to hire; but 74% of construction firms report they are having trouble finding skilled craft workers, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and welders, according to a 2014 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America.

To fill these positions, the industry is appealing to young people by highlighting the technological aspects of construction jobs.

“The nature of construction work is somewhat different from what it was even seven years ago when the downturn began,” said Ken Simonson, economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. There is much more use of laser and GPS guided equipment, building information modeling, and other things that require computer skills and use of technology that was not common before the recession.”

Mobile crane operator is one of the most popular jobs among young people because it is technologically intensive and the machines are operated with a joystick, like a video game. In fact, young people are often better equipped to operate new machines, because they are so used to playing games.

“Because they played video games for so long, their hand-eye coordination is very fast and advanced,” said L.J. Zielke, president of Allied Career Training. “A lot of the equipment is joystick driven. It literally can be just like a video game.”

The top three construction curriculum in terms of enrollment are welding, HVAC and electrical, all of which require math and technical skills, according to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, a non-profit that develops curricula and accredits training programs.

Build Your Future is a campaign by the National Center for Construction Education and Research that uses grassroots recruiting efforts to attract young people nationwide by hosting career days, visiting schools, and assisting with training and career placement.

They also have a library of promotional videos aimed at students, parents, and educators that compare workers to computer technicians and feature them working with iPads, reading blueprints and operating machines with joysticks.

Recently, Build Your Future has brought its efforts to the elementary level, giving away trading cards that describe various jobs in construction, and holding essay and art contests in schools.

“When we put it in this fun format, it started making a difference,” said Jennifer Wilkerson, marketing director at the National Center for Construction Education. “All of sudden you had kids that were talking about careers that they were never talking about before. We’re planting the seeds of terminology.”

To change its image, the construction industry is presenting employment opportunities as careers with competitive salaries and benefits, rather than just jobs.

Go Build Alabama is an initiative by the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute that uses mass media and grassroots campaigns to debunk the perception of construction as “dirty”, low-paying, labor-intensive work. Their website and videos breakdown trade careers with information on wages and skills, and connect people with training programs in the state.

“In a video game world, you’ve got to make it cool to young people,” said Jason Phelps, director of the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute. “At the high school level we’ve really turned it around by getting those kids interested.”

The construction industry is also appealing to the growing number of women in the workforce by using these same methods. The hands-on, creative, and technical aspects of construction are starting to attract young women to the field.

“Go Build puts together materials that are going to appeal to young women to consider construction as a career,” said Phelps. “That’s an untapped labor pool that we can grow in the future.”

Kristen Booker, 17, took her first welding class at T.R. Miller High School in Alabama, just to try something new. She realized she had a knack for the trade, and enrolled in vocational and training courses through the high school, the Career Readiness Center, and Reid State Technical College.

Booker is precisely the type of worker the construction industry aims to attract with technology. She was drawn to the field because she enjoys experimenting with welding technologies and calculations, as well as the hands-on, creative work.

“I just love to do what I do,” said Booker. “It takes mental and physical ability. It’s something you can do with your hands that you can make.”

Welding is a popular construction field for young women, because it requires workers to be patient, meticulous and creative. However, it is still a male-dominated career and Booker also feels empowered to be a part of it.

“I’m good at it and I like to show the men that I can give 110%,” said Booker. “It is hard to be a woman in a men’s workforce, but that’s everyday society. You have a place to uphold.”

Booker received job offers from two companies for when she graduates this year. She settled on Performance Contractors because of their job opportunities, pay and benefits. She hopes to move up in the field and become a supervisor in the next few years.

By nature, construction work is done on a project-by-project basis. This can be worrisome to people entering the job market, because they can’t be assured that there will always be a next project; especially after 2.3 million jobs were lost in the recession, or 30% of the construction workforce.

“People going into a career have to realize that construction is never guaranteed, long-term employment,” said Simonson.

The industry is trying to detract from that by emphasizing the importance of developing an expertise in a craft, so that skills are portable. A worker may not be with the same company for 30 years, but he or she will have a career. This may require relocating or additional training.

The construction industry is gearing up to expand recruiting efforts in order to meet the growing number of projects scheduled in the coming years, especially in the commercial and industrial sectors. Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana have seen particularly strong growth in those areas.

The average age of a skilled worker in the construction industry is 48 to 52 years old, according the National Center for Construction Education and Research. As more workers reach the retirement age, the need for new, young workers is increasing.

“As you see journeymen retiring, what you want to be doing is moving apprentices and lower level workers up into those positions. And then back-filling through the schools.“ said Daniel Groves, of the Construction Users Roundtable.

Construction employment has risen more rapidly than overall employment in the last two years. Last year, 75% of students from Allied Career Training, an apprenticeship program for heavy equipment operators, had jobs lined up when they graduated and the rest found work within 30 days of graduation.

With plenty of jobs available, recruiting efforts will maintain a strong focus on young people in order to create a sustainable pool of skilled laborers.