On Record: Rethinking workforce development

The Center of Economic and Policy Research defines a “good job” as one with health insurance, a retirement plan and earnings of at least $17 an hour. That works out to about $34,000 a year. Construction is filled with jobs that go beyond this definition.

And so we’ve got a good story to tell. It makes me think that while most of our workforce development efforts are understandably aimed at the young, that’s not where they should end. When it comes to a problem this widespread it’s time to consider every alternative:

Recruit all ages: Take a deeper look at the people coming out of hard-hit U.S. industries such as manufacturing, which has lost 3.2 million jobs since 2000, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing. They may be used to an inside, repetitious job, but that could be all the more reason they’d take a stab at doing something entirely different. Many were faithful, industrious employees. They may not have the physical capabilities of an 18-year-old anymore, but I’d bet you’d trade brawn any day for someone who knows how to show up and produce. One place to start tapping these idled workers: the outplacement services sometimes offered by companies with closed-down plants.

Use your retirees: Many of you already employ this tactic, but perhaps you should formalize your approach. Take the time to sit down with valued employees scheduled to retire in the next few years, and map out a possible career path for their retirement. There are many reasons, both financial and personal, they might be willing to consider flexible part-time work. Perhaps that nest egg isn’t quite as big as they imagined, especially with today’s longer life expectancies. (In a February CareerBuilder.com survey, for example, 44 percent of respondents said they would likely put off retirement because they couldn’t afford it financially.) And some just don’t do well in the feet-propped-up business.

But don’t just offer them the same ol’, same ol’. Just because they’ve been a foreman for all these years, for instance, doesn’t mean they only care about field work. Depending on their temperament and skill set, they may make an ideal lead trainer for younger employees. Another possible task: coordinating your firm’s community involvement.

Find out if it makes sense to you to hire these people through a third-party staffing agency, which in addition to handling all employment details can track hours so their retirement benefits aren’t affected. And these agencies might also help you sniff out available skilled retirees from other construction firms.

Keep who you have: Our cover couple, Alan and Amanda Bracken, became Equipment World’s Contractor of the Year primarily because of the leadership tactics they’ve taken with their crews. Read their story on page 28 and discover whether you should also be asking the same hard questions that lead the Brackens to seek answers in leadership training. A large part of the immediate battle in replacing good people might be solved by not having to do it in the first place.