AEMP Focus on Workforce: Closing the Skills Gap
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Posted by: AEMP
Like you, we hear the talk about the skilled worker shortage in construction and construction support industries.
The encouraging news is that according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse, in 2016 student enrollment in construction trades degree programs at four-year schools was up 26.4 percent over the previous year. In fact, according to an article in U.S.News & World Report, the number of students seeking a bachelor's degree in construction and construction support jumped to almost 10,000 last year.
But, until those students venture out in the real world, what can we as an industry do to meet the current shortage?
The skilled worker shortage challenge is aggravated by how rapidly new skills are being added to our industry, the increasing number of projects coming on the books with inadequate labor pre-planning, and as we have just witnessed, the unexpected demand for even more skilled people to meet construction needs after a natural disaster.
In the short term, we need to join experienced, skilled people with employers who recognize and need their talents immediately. A great example of how employers and well trained people are joining is AEMP's Work Force initiative that is taking steps to connect specific groups of skilled workers such as veterans with companies who need to hire more people with established skills and experience now.
In the long term, new survey data is showing a very significant and healthy interest from younger workers seeking a construction career.
Construction management is the most common four year baccalaureate degree program offered by accredited schools. Bill Bender, professor and department chair for construction management at the University of Washington says it is important to view construction management education as a combination of various disciplines. "Construction management’s a blend of architecture, business and engineering," says Bender.
At last count, there are 73 baccalaureate degree programs and 5 masters degree programs. (There are 13 associate degree programs for construction accredited by the American Council for Construction Education with 12 more schools offering construction degrees that have not yet been evaluated by the council.) These numbers do not include for-profit vocational training schools.
The programs at the accredited schools in the ACCE list vary widely. Four-year programs emphasize business management skills, other target construction technology, while others concentrate on engineering and design. Two-year associate degree programs tend to be more hands-on, concentrating on building. Both are embracing technology whole heartedly.
ACCE also recognizes non-degree construction educational programs so that those looking for training in construction support careers, as well as those seeking to add specific skills and certifications such as green building or estimating, can find reliable providers.
So, what can we do between the short term and long term solutions?
How about creating a Skills Maintenance Program, similar to what you probably have in place for your fleet, for those mid-career people on your staff.
Take a good look at the specific skills your fleet technicians (and you) have, and compare what you have available with the skills your company's projects will call for in the next two years. Is your company adding new equipment to your fleet that will require advanced know-how? What plans are ahead for replacing old equipment - will you purchase similar machines or go rogue and try a new vehicle? And also consider turnover - will some of your skilled people be retiring or moving?
With your list in hand, start talking with your dealers about training they provide. If they want you to buy a new vehicle, you can bet they will be very happy to help you maintain it. Plot out what associations and industry trade groups will be offering training, certifications, and expo events that provide excellent opportunities to sharpen skills. Check AEMP's site regularly for our events: AEMP.org.
There's no quick fix for solving the skilled worker shortage, but if we manage the talents already available on our teams, recognize skilled experience in those looking to work in our industry, and encourage new career seekers to join us, we can make a lot happen.
For the ACCE list of accredited colleges, please click here