Industry Trends to Sustain the Future Workforce

Joe Weinlick
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Several industries face looming labor shortages due to retiring baby boomers and lack of a sustainable workforce. Health care, construction and manufacturing have plenty of job vacancies but not enough viable talent in the labor pool. One possible solution comes from consortium of construction industry groups in Houston. Instead of waiting for talent to come to the HR office, these groups seek to train future employees with worker education programs in public schools.

One way to create a sustainable workforce involves catching the interest of young minds early before high schoolers lose motivation to obtain a career. Austin Industrial, a Houston-area firm that specializes in providing workers for manufacturing, construction and energy projects, wants to help local high school kids receive opportunities to earn potential income with future construction jobs.

A recent survey conducted by the National Center for Construction Education and Research indicates as many as 40 percent of group's companies continually have trouble filling vacant positions. Three common reasons cited for these shortages include lack of applicants, lack of technical competencies and lack of experience. There are plenty of people, just not ones trained to the job needed.

Enter the Construction Careers Youth Committee, a consortium of four Houston-area groups that intend to create a sustainable workforce by educating, training and inspiring young people to enter the construction industry. The committee supports the use of NCCER curriculum for career and technical training in 24 Houston-area school districts. The four groups donate time, staff and money to provide hands-on training and education for students who may not feel a four-year college experience fits yet a simple GED is not enough.

Students who participate in CTE classes through the NCCER curriculum earn up to 72 hours towards a certificate of completion. Hands-on courses are designed to train skilled safety-conscious craftspeople who essentially complete an apprenticeship in a chosen CTE field. The worker education program provides a sustainable workforce because NCCER companies can draw from this talent. Graduates of the program have the inside track to careers and jobs for which they have already been trained, including skilled crafts, management and supervisory positions.

Austin Industrial cites Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers that show less than 10 percent of the country's seven million construction workers complete a formal apprenticeship. This lack of education reduces quality and salaries. The Construction Careers Youth Committee helps solve the educational gap for the industry.

Another major reason for the construction labor shortage involves the recession of 2008. When the industry tanked, the sustainable workforce left to find jobs elsewhere and did not come back when construction rebounded. At the same time, fewer skilled workers entered the labor pool because there were no positions to fill. Now there are plenty of jobs but no talent, so there's lots of money to be made.

Consider scientists who loved that small chemistry set given to them as a Christmas gift, authors inspired by a book read as a youth and doctors who aspired to care for people all because someone took the time to show them varied and interesting aspects of life. Likewise, one key to a sustainable workforce is to pique the interest of workers at a young age. Every industry should follow the Construction Careers Youth Committee's example.


Image courtesy of iMorpheus at



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