Industry is stepping in to narrow the skilled worker gap.
The U.S. construction industry added 25,000 new jobs in May 2018, while unemployment in the industry stands at just 4.4 percent, the lowest rate in 18 years. In this tight labor market, companies are joining unions, trade groups and community colleges in developing free or low-cost training programs to provide potential future workers basic skills that could open the door to a career in construction.
In 2017, Denver-based Oakwood Homes, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, established the Colorado Homebuilding Academy to provide training that aligns with the current needs of construction owners. One course, which is free to anyone interested in starting a career in Colorado’s construction industry, is Construction Skills Bootcamp. It meets twice a week for eight weeks. Graduates earn OSHA 10 and other industry certifications, receive their own set of starter tools and make connections with employers (including Oakwood Homes) looking for workers.
Dallas-based TDIndustries is taking a different approach with an in-house training program geared to women.
Construction companies tend to overlook women when it comes to recruiting, noted Randee Herrin, Houston senior vice president of new construction at TDIndustries. “At some point you have to look and say, ‘We’re only going out to 50 percent of the population and we’re going to continue to be in deficit, so why don’t we look at the other 50 percent of the population and provide the same opportunities to them that we’re providing to the others?’”
Earlier this year, working with community partners including the United Way’s THRIVE, which helps families build stronger financial futures, TD started a pilot tradeswoman training program. Over the course of 12 weeks, 10 women received workforce readiness training — and earned themselves a place as a TD employee.
The participants were screened from a potential pool of 2,500 female job seekers. “All of them were women who had worked very hard, including two veterans. Most of them have some sort of degree or portion of a degree, and they had worked in many different industries. All they were looking for was a shot at a really good opportunity,” said Herrin.
During the first three weeks the women received training in the office with an emphasis on soft skills. They also attended a weekly class on handling personal finances. “If you give people a great job and the wage is maybe higher than they were used to, we also have to give them the skills to manage that money,” said Herrin.
During the nine weeks on the jobsite the women got an opportunity for hands-on work. It was a positive experience.
“I definitely like the fact that me and my teammates are creating something together, and in the end we can all sit back and say, ‘I did that,’” said one class participant, Meaghan Benoit, in a video interview for TD.
“I did that” is something companies will also be able to say when their training programs begin to yield a more robust construction workforce.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.
Photo Credit: TDIndustries