Workforce Development Doesn’t Happen Without You 
November-December 2019 
 

I have written frequently about our workforce development efforts related to the IBuildAmerica-Ohio.com website build-out and encouraging its use as a recruiting tool, but there is much more going on within our industry related to workforce development. Because of the fragmented nature in which this occurs, it is difficult to get a sense of all that is going on with our contractors, the unions, other organizations related to the construction industry, in the schools and by government. Each are playing a valuable role and OCA is working to create awareness about the many good-news stories that are already in place or are being created.

Many of our contractors are already active with one or more high schools, careers technical centers and two-year or four-year colleges by supporting either individual students and/or providing overall program support. In some cases, this extends to the earlier grades to foster industry awareness even before the high school years begin. Contractors’ relationships come in many different forms such as job fairs; job and shop site visits; speaking opportunities; instructor and guidance counselor discussions; school board member interactions; scholarships; and monetary or material donations. We have seen examples of each at different schools. Of course, our larger members can engage to a greater degree and the majority truly are. However, I challenge even our smallest companies to build a relationship with at least one school and, if you are a union contractor, to have at least one letter of intent to hire with an individual who is working through an apprenticeship program. If you are open shop, even a small company, through a relationship with a school and after conversations with an instructor or guidance counselor, have your eye on a couple of individuals who hold promise as a future employee.

Our associated unions are making great efforts in schools across Ohio. We have spoken with the Laborers and Carpenters unions who have created accredited high school programs that lead to a high school diploma. The Carpenters are already in ninety-two schools and that number is growing. And, before their program is labeled as just a “residential home-builder program,” know that many of those skills learned by residential housing framers carry into highway construction as entry-level positions. The Laborers’ program is just beginning and finding its first application in the Toledo City schools system. The benefit to taking advantage of these accredited programs in high school is advanced placement in apprenticeship programs for unions and receiving better technically prepared employees for all employers.

Beyond the unions, the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association has developed their own accredited high school program called MACC Tech that focuses on training for materials testing. The challenge for implementing any accredited curriculum comes in persuading career technical centers and high schools to agree to provide this coursework as a subject matter offering. That is where you can play a valuable role in speaking with educators and school board members about industry needs and rewarding post-graduate careers. You are an influencer in your local school district. Keep in mind, while I’m sure it would represent a loss to some firms, we are seeing the most successful instructors coming from industry bringing their experience and enthusiasm to the classroom for the ultimate benefit of hundreds of future employees.

In his early days as Governor, Mike DeWine introduced goals related to certifications for specific skills that would prove beneficial to high school graduates and, most notably, for those wishing to advance their career or transition to a new career. Most career technical center schools offer adult education programs, along with community colleges, in order to assist with post-graduation needs. These certification opportunities are beginning to take shape as industries identify specific skills and how related training can be developed. The items mentioned represent just a few of the examples we have witnessed in our visits with school administrators, union representatives, and our members. You will hear more about union efforts at Winter Conference during a panel presentation that will be given on Monday afternoon.

Our workforce development focus at OCA, beyond IBuildAmerica-Ohio, is to form and create ties between contractors and specific schools, encourage adoption of construction-specific curriculum, and bring industry career awareness to schools. Clearly, none of this is fully accomplished without the support of OCA’s membership. In a recent AGC America poll, 81% of Ohio contractor respondents indicated the need for craft workers as the most pressing concern with the construction industry. Individually, there is much being accomplished by many. As that circle of engagement grows, we will create a reliable pipeline of talent that all of us may rely on for the future vitality of the heavy-highway construction industry in Ohio. We are seeing plentiful educational opportunities but it will fall to the employers to sell the career path and hire the young talent to strengthen the foundation of our future workforce.