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Focus - Appealing to a new generation

image Tamara Schmoekel, Workforce Development Director, Associated Builders & Contractors, San Antonio, TX

SAN ANTONIO - Attracting new generations to the construction industry requires a creative approach. They are more selective than their parents were when job hunting. They want a career that pays well, fulfills their need for happiness, creativity, and purpose. The Safety Committee and Workforce Development Committee at Associated Builders and Contractors are using maverick approaches for safety training, leadership training and community outreach to focus on the needs of this new generation in addressing the labor shortage.


    ABC is founded on the merit shop philosophy and is profoundly committed to a culture of safety that is serving the betterment of our members, companies, and community.  It is these very qualities that attract new employees to our member companies.
    A 2015 industry poll stated that mentorship and opportunities for growth attracts and retains employees. Investing in employees’ training shows that you believe in their ability and support their growth in the company. Many of our members support their employees through the ABC National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) apprenticeship program that offers on-the-job training while they learn new skills. Our leadership training courses address the needs of companies concerned about succession and introduce new skill sets that favorably affect their image and productivity.     
    Employees stated that another important factor for recruitment and retention was safety.  They felt a company shows it cares about its employees by emphasizing safety practices.  ABC’s Safety Committee has dedicated itself to safety education by raising money to offer free safety training to its members. A culture of safety is emphasized with the S.T.E.P. program, a systematic guide and educational tool for implementing and maintaining a culture of safety.     
    Community outreach is at the forefront of our members’ commitment to South Texas.  Our partnerships with local schools increase public investment in building the skills of the next generation.  This collaboration supports the collective effort to alter the community mindset of the construction industry with a long-term focus on recruitment.  In identifying and developing programs for community outreach, companies adjust their own strategies to invite opportunities for young workers.  One company initiated a mentoring program.  They partner with the craft teachers as guest speakers and mentors for students showing interest in construction.  Another success story is the industry tours hosted by ABC’s cohort of members.  They invite, principals, teachers, and counselors to view the construction process from conception to completion with opportunities to talk one-on-one with industry professionals about the opportunities for a successful career in construction.    
    This type of one-on-one engagement with students, parents, schools, and the community is the catalyst necessary for radical change in the mindset from construction as a low skill/low wage job, to construction as a phenomenal opportunity for a rewarding career without all the college debt!  High schools students can graduate with NCCER certificates earning a higher wage than their peers. Apprentices can take advantage of continuing education through member safety and leadership training opportunities in their quest to climb the career ladder.  This is only one of the many opportunities available to build a career in construction.  
    Kids all start out fascinated by construction with their toy cranes, bulldozers, and hard hats.  They even build miniature metropolises with their Lego sets. So when do they lose that passion and what can we do to reignite it?  It is no secret that the industry is afflicted with an undeserved reputation reinforced by commercials saying there is a plumber in all of us.  Combating that image is not possible without the collective effort of industry and community working collaboratively to build successful careers for our community and a better future for our industry.  –cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net