MI Career Spotlight

  • Construction Trades

    The Resurgence of Michigan’s Construction Industry; Building the Current and Future Workforce

    "Today, too few workers have the skills needed to meet the demands of employers in the new economy. Like many in-demand fields, the construction industry is facing a shortage of workers. One of the most common issues is the lack of knowledge that Michigan workers have about in-demand careers and training programs. We need to address this issue, as early as possible, by identifying employers’ talent needs and connecting individuals with the many unique career opportunities that are here today."
    – Gov. Rick Snyder 

    Construction TradesMichigan’s economy is on the rebound and one area that is playing a leading role in rebuilding Michigan is the construction industry. Yet, job creators are finding it challenging to grow and develop without the right talent. As a result, many construction firms in Michigan are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers and the industry expects future demand for workers will continue to increase.

    “Our company is growing right now and so are others in our market. We are having a hard time finding enough people, and we are not alone,” said Ben Wickstrom, president of Grand Rapids-based Erhardt Construction.

    According to industry experts, construction has two issues that it will need to work on solving – image and training.

    “First, we need to attract more workers to our industry and then we have to have the programs in place to train them,” said Norm Brady, president/CEO of the Associated Builders & Contractors – Western Michigan Chapter. “Construction industry wages are among some of the highest. Working in the trades is a great career and we have to do a better job of letting people know what we have to offer.”

    Demand for Construction Occupations

    ConstructionTradesThe construction industry faces shortages in all trades, but steel erectors, electricians, masons, carpenters, and welders are in significant demand at the moment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the construction industry will add 1,839,000 jobs by 2020 nationally. The story is the same in Michigan; most people are not aware of the strong rebound in constructions jobs and that companies cannot find the workers they need. The construction industry needs skilled workers for these skilled trades as well as additional workers in entry level occupations such as roofers, framers and general laborers. For the construction and repair occupations, there have been approximately 10,000 job vacancies in Michigan on a quarterly basis during the past year, according to the Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online data.

    Construction Related Education & Career Pathways

    Construction is, for the most part, a learn-by-doing trade. Most workers enter the field as general laborers and hone their skills on job sites under the supervision and tutelage of more experienced professionals who have already mastered the trade. Others follow a more traditional educational path which may include a construction related CTE (Career and Technical Education) program at the high school level or an engineering or construction management program at the post-secondary level. Still, others choose a third option which combines on-the-job and classroom training through more structured apprenticeships.

    Employer Profile:

    American Subcontractors Association of Michigan (ASAM), Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), and Home Builders Association (HBA)

    The labor shortage facing construction is not unique to any one segment of the industry; both the commercial and residential sectors are affected as well as all trades. In an effort to tackle the issue, a West Michigan-based consortium made up of several prominent statewide trade associations, Michigan Works! Agencies, community colleges and other state and local partners, have come together to begin addressing some of the talent challenges facing the industry.

    “We simply cannot afford to go it alone,” said Bob Filka, President/CEO of the Home Builders Association. “The public and private partners who are involved understand what is at stake and collectively we believe we have the expertise and resources to create the current and future workforce that is needed.”

    Following the inaugural meeting in Grand Rapids on December 16, the consensus of the attendees was that it had been a great opportunity for several organizations that are grappling with the same problem to come together, share ideas, form relationships, and begin addressing the talent shortage in a unified way.

    “Collaboration allows us to pool our resources and ideas resulting in a better industry,” Brady said.

    Following the initial meeting, ASAM, ABC, HBA, Grand Rapids Community College, and Michigan Works! formed a group called “Construction Workforce Development Alliance of West Michigan.” The purpose of the alliance is to redefine the image of construction and to promote career opportunities within the industry.

    Another significant early outcome of this collaboration is a pilot training curriculum that ASAM, ABC, and HBA recently launched in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College. The Construction Core Curriculum –Jump Start program will serve as a foundational piece focused on the basics of construction, such as safety, blueprint reading, construction, and math, with the option to include trade specific training. The initial cohort consists of 17 individuals from ASAM, ABC, and HBA companies.

    ASAM, ABC, and HBA have each agreed to fund five scholarships (15 total) for the next Construction Core Curriculum – Jump Start program which will begin in June 2014. Area Community Services Employment & Training Council (ACSET), the local Michigan Works! Agency, has stepped up and stated they will cover one-half of the cost of the scholarships. Students complete the program by attending class on a full time basis for approximately three weeks. As part of the scholarship award, ASAM, ABC, and HBA guarantee all graduating scholarship students a minimum of two interviews for full-time regular employment with members of the three respective associations.

    The scholarship process will be administered through the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation. Job candidates who present themselves to area employers with a Construction Core Curriculum Credential can demonstrate they have the necessary foundational skills desired by the construction industry. For information regarding the June 2014 Construction Core Curriculum- Jump Start program, please contact:

    Norm Brady
    Associated Builders and Contractors
    nbrady@abcwmc.org
    616-942-9960

    Summing up the efforts of the regional consortium and new pilot program, Wickstrom said, “For me, it was refreshing to sit around a table with people from different agencies and companies and focus on solutions. It truly was a collaborative atmosphere amongst all participants. I found the meeting to be very beneficial and I look forward to working side by side with these stakeholders to create jobs, improve our industry, and benefit our community.”

    - Feb-2014 

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