FILE - Construction workers, new housing

Master Builders of Iowa, an association of general contractors, launched a $5 million endowment to promote the industry and recruit qualified construction workers for future projects statewide.

The idea is to attract more youth and young adults into construction jobs and to help the industry reach out as it promotes construction careers, according to MBI. Under the terms of the endowment, a board of directors will examine proposals that serve to advocate for construction careers or generate public interest in the industry, the MBI said in a news release.

"The endowment with MBI Works creates a unique opportunity to not only partner with schools and create better awareness in education in that K-12 platform but also to look toward those nonprofit agencies that we can in turn partner with as it relates to how the endowment would eventually come to be and how we can supplement on a cash basis programs that help initiate and improve our industry," Chris Wheeler, chairman of the MBI Works Endowment Board, said.

MBI sees the initiative as a long-term endeavor that will be focused on the construction workplace in Iowa.

“This organization will now be more disciplined in its efforts to focus on workforce needs for the industry, which will continue through the good times as well as the bad,” the MBI news release states.

A recent study by Iowa Workforce Development projected that the number of people employed by the construction industry in Iowa will go from 80,770 in 2016 to 93,475 in 2026, with many of those jobs in residential and other types of construction, as well as electrical contracting. That represents the addition of 12,705 jobs over a decade and a 15.7 percent growth rate.

At the same time, Iowa’s jobless rate has bottomed out at 2.4 percent as elected leaders work to address labor shortages in the state.

“This isn’t about scholarships but instead about relationship building and partnerships that will move the needle in address our skills gap,” the MBI news release said.

The MBI endowment comes on the heels of the organization completing a comprehensive membership survey about construction industry challenges in the years ahead. Among the top issues identified by MBI members were obtaining skilled workers and advancing workforce development.

MBI decided that the creation of the endowment was the best way to address such concerns. Proposal requests can be filed on the MBI website,