Let’s Militarize the Workforce … Sort Of

April 9, 2015
Editor – GX – Arturo

According to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment dropped by 1,000 in March but is still up by 282,000 compared to last year. This is being reported as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 9.5%.

The current numbers may not immediately reflect the fact that construction employers are having a hard time filling open jobs for a steady stream of incoming projects. On the website www.constructiondive.com, Sharon O’Malley reports that construction firms can offer reliable, well-paying jobs to qualified workers for positions ranging from unskilled laborers to skilled trades, professional designers and managers, and office staff.

“Yet, job-hunters aren’t lining up to fill those roles,” writes O’Malley. “Industry observers point to a variety of culprits:

* High schools, over the years, have shifted their focus from teaching job skills to preparing students for college.
* During the recession, the construction industry laid off almost 2 million workers. Now that the economy is improving, it needs those crew members back, at least the skilled ones. But those experienced workers have already found other jobs or have retired from the workforce.
* Many available workers don’t have the skills needed on job sites. So even though unemployment rates are still high in some areas of the country, the skills of the job seekers don’t quite fit the needs of construction employers.
* The oil and gas industries over the past couple of years have poached construction workers right off of job sites with the promise of higher pay and hefty bonuses. That has created an even deeper shortage of qualified construction crews.”

Let me address the third part of that list. Read it again. “Many available workers don’t have the skills needed on job sites. So even though unemployment rates are still high in some areas of the country, the skills of the job seekers don’t quite fit the needs of construction employers.”

May I now direct your attention to “Helmets to Hardhats.” It’s a national, nonprofit program that connects National Guard, Reserve, retired, and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and quality career opportunities in the construction industry. The program is designed to help military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the construction industry.

This is from the program’s website, www.helmetstohardhats.org: “Most career opportunities offered by the program are connected to federally-approved apprenticeship training programs. Such training is provided by the trade organizations themselves at no cost to the veteran. No prior experience is needed; in fact, most successful placements start with virtually no experience in their chosen field.  All participating trade organizations conduct three to five year earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship training programs that teach service members everything they need to know to become a construction industry professional with a specialization in a particular craft. And, because these apprenticeship programs are regulated and approved at both federal and state levels, veterans can utilize their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while they are learning valuable skills and on the job training.”

This is a program that can be utilized by both veterans looking for jobs, and construction employers looking to fill open jobs.

We’ve got to close this skills gap somehow, and Helmets to Hardhats is a great place to start.