President Donald Trump recently announced a “Pledge to America’s Workers,” and he also issued an executive order to help solve the nation’s skilled labor crisis. He called for hundreds of companies and organizations to join in this effort to provide additional job training and apprenticeship opportunities across many different American industries, including construction.
According to the executive order, there are millions of unfilled jobs in the United States because a majority of the available workers just don’t have the skills required to fill them. Many of the available careers happen to be construction jobs with generous salaries.
Although it might take several months before any of the changes from this initiative take effect, here are some of the ways that it could benefit the construction industry:
- Employee training & retraining – The initiative calls for a national campaign to raise awareness or companies to invest in the training and re-training of their workers and more clearly define the skills and competencies that jobs require.
- Company recognition – It will initiate a plan to recognize those companies that excel in workplace education, training, and re‑training.
- Apprenticeship expansion – Plans to promote work-based learning opportunities.
- Increasing partnerships – Encourages more collaboration between businesses, educational institutions, and various other entities to help create educational opportunities and training programs that provide workers with the skills that are required by employers.
Even though experts in skilled trades industries are concluding that this initiative could be a step in the right direction for solving the labor crisis, it will still require more dedication from both legislators and employers. Another ongoing obstacle that needs to be remedied will be those employers that avoid re-training their workers due to the expenses associated with it. For the new initiative to be successful, organizations will need to increase investments in the area of learning and development, not reduce them.
Additional Steps are Needed
Many of the solutions listed in the President’s executive order are closely aligned with what we and other industry experts have been writing about for some time now. However, I believe more action steps are needed. Construction Today published an article highlighting four of our suggested approaches to attract more skilled workers to the industry.
The solutions include allocating federal funds to attract more people to trade schools versus four-year colleges, creating awareness about the demand for skilled labor and providing scholarships to help students get through community college training programs or trade school.
It’s also essential to educate future generations of workers regarding the available construction careers. In addition to keeping high school vocational programs that teach students hands-on skills such as carpentry, experts are also encouraging schools to offer shop classes as early as middle school. This will help to ensure that students are aware of their skills at a young age.
It would also be mutually beneficial to invest in training programs in our most impoverished inner cities. I believe this would have one of the best returns on investment as a nation. This would take people off government assistance and instead, teach them skills that can take them out of poverty and into the tax paying middle class.
If the executive order makes the partnership between the government and construction leadership stronger, then the profession will gain the human resources needed to help rebuild the infrastructure of America.
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