Please scroll to the bottom of the article for a list of online training resources.
The Construction Labor Research Council predicts that as the economy picks up and older workers retire, 185,000 new craft workers must be attracted, trained and retained each year until 2016. That’s 1.5 million skilled workers who will need formal training in the next eight years.
Today, traditional union and merit shop apprentice programs and employer training make up the bulk of training providers for the trades. Members of the construction industry and public education are moving to develop more craft training options as the need for skilled workers increases.
Public colleges are expanding their construction programs, adding hands-on craft training, technician and equipment technology programs to their current construction business and project management curriculum. Junior and community colleges that closely reflect their area’s industry and economic needs can respond quickly to adjust their curriculum to meet local labor and industry trends. For post-secondary students and adult non-traditional students, these vocational-academic blend programs offer two important additional benefits: college credentials and financial assistance. Depending on the program, a trainee can learn an employable skill and earn a degree, diploma or certificate. Public schools offer a greater variety of financial assistance programs than for-profit private career schools, including veteran’s benefits and federal grants and loans.
The Central Lakes College Heavy Equipment Program in Staples, Minnesota, is an example of a community college that graduates workers with heavy equipment operator skills. Nancy Schmidt says, “With the addition of course offerings/sections, the demand for our program has seen a considerable increase in student numbers. We continue to see a strong interest from both industry and students.”
The student mix is a blend of high school grads and returning adults who study computer technology in heavy equipment, earthmoving operations theory, heavy equipment math/estimating, servicing and preventative maintenance skills and perform approximately 600 hours of hands-on equipment operations on a 360-acre training site. The four-semester program has a placement rate of 93 percent. CLC instructor Andy Anderson says, “During their course of study, students earn their Class A driver’s license, CPR and first aid certificates, competent person training, study soils and compaction, and work with Trimble GPS systems. Contractors that have hired our graduates tell us they prefer our students because our program gives students a well rounded education.”
Two-year craft training programs offered at four-year schools such as Penn State’s College of Technology offer a Masonry Emphasis Associates of Applied Science degree that combines hands-on masonry training on actual masonry jobs with coursework in structural technology and soft construction skills taught in the classroom.
To meet their own skilled labor demands, equipment manufacturers and construction associations are partnering with public post-secondary institutions to train workers for jobs at the dealer level.
Oklahoma State University’s Heavy Equipment & Vehicle Institute works with Cat’s Dealer Prep and Komatsu’s Advanced Career Training programs to train diesel technicians. Students are sponsored by regional equipment dealers who provide a paid internship during training. The cooperative two-year program focuses on the sponsoring manufacturer’s machines and proprietary technology, and leads to an associate in applied science degree. Roy Achemire, OSU’s program chair, says nearly 100 percent of the program’s participants who complete training are immediately employed by their sponsors.
Equipment manufacturing associations are forming alliances with colleges and vocational centers to train technicians and trades people to fill positions with their membership. The Associated Equipment Distributors University, for example, works with 21 accredited post-secondary schools. Steve Johnson, executive director of the AED Foundation, is working to increase the number of AED-accredited schools so that they will graduate 1,200 ready-to-work heavy diesel technicians each year by 2012.
The Wyoming Contractors Association, part of Associated General Contractors of America, offers heavy equipment operator training to returning military helping veterans transition back into the workforce. Funded by a grant from the DOL’s Veteran’s Employment and Training Service (VETS), the Casper-based McMurry Training Center conducts four-week training programs from March to July and covers the vet’s costs for lodging, special equipment and personal expenses. Some trainees have heavy equipment experience in the service but that is not a requirement. Applicants learn about the WCA McMurry program from regional Department of Veterans Affairs offices and come from all over the country. Bill Murphy, director of WCA, says “Employers like to hire the vets who complete our training because they are reliable, drug-free and meet the bulk of the criteria that constitutes a good employee.”
If we build it they might come
A major challenge to increasing the number of skilled workers in the construction industry has been too few places to learn the trades. The growing commitment of industry and education is, slowly, making craft training more available. Can we attract and train 185,000 new workers this year? It’s a start.
Pennsylvania College of Technology: www.pct.edu
Oklahoma State University – Institute of Technology: www.osu-okmulgee.edu/
National Center of Education Statistics: nces.ed.gov/
Central Lakes College in Staples, Minnesota: www.clc.mnscu.edu
Cat’s ThinkBIG program: www.cat.com
Komatsu’s Advanced Career Training: www.osu-okmulgee.edu
AED University: www.aedu.org
Wyoming Contractors Association: www.wyomingcontractors.org
Associated Builders and Contractors Association: www.abc.org
National Center for Construction Education and Research: www.nccer.org
Local 150, International Union of Operating Engineers: www.local150.org
College Navigator (National Center for Education Statistics)
Search public and private post-secondary schools offering 28 construction programs/majors
Landing page for in-demand occupation info
Dept of Education Database of Accredited of Postsecondary Institutions
Most training programs need to meet DOE or DOL accreditation requirements to receive federal financial assistance grants and loans
Extensive construction industry resource guide
America’s Career InfoNet
Certification finder by occupation
American Council for Construction Education
State list and contacts for accredited programs
Search for apprenticeships by state
Associated Builders & Contractors
Search 78 local ABC chapters for training and registered apprenticeship programs
Dept of Labor List of Apprenticeable Occupations
Excel listing of all DOL recognized apprenticeable occupations
Registered Apprentice Website
Landing page for DOL apprenticeship information
Workforce Credentials Information Center
Research training required for trades
Construction Technical Schools Guide
Listing of public and private construction schools
Career OneStop Financial Aid Center
Landing page for tuition and training assistance
Dept of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Website
Education benefits for Montgomery and Post 9-11 bills
Federal Student Aid
Comprehensive instructions for federal tuition aid programs
Financial Aid Facts
Good explanations of various aid sources
Other articles in this special report:
Cover Story/Special Report: Attracting the people you need
Web exclusive–Special Report: Attracting the people you need/Top 10 tips for finding a good career school
Web exclusive–Special Report: Attracting the people you need/Demographics