Training programs launched to battle Midwest construction worker shortage

According to a recent study by the FMI Corporation, the construction industry in Indiana could soon experience drastic workforce shortages. Considering the average age of skilled crafts people is 47, shortages could arise not only in the Midwest but across the country.

The “Indianapolis Craft Labor Study,” commissioned by the Indiana Construction Roundtable, predicted severe shortages in central Indiana in every construction craft by the middle of next year, and a deficit of 6,500 craft workers by the summer of 2005. To help meet demand, the ICR plans to establish a website to attract more workers to the area. The website will target high school students and out-of-state workers and will provide information about careers in construction. Local construction industry organizations also plan to increase training opportunities.

“ABC of Indiana is already laying plans to ramp up all training programs to help address workforce needs,” said J.R. Gaylor, president of the Indiana ABC chapter.

The Idaho Transportation Department’s solution to workforce shortages is to educate women and minorities to work in the construction field. Approximately 5 percent of American highway workers are women or minorities, but that percent is growing due to laws on federal projects that require contractors to hire more people in minority groups. The Idaho DOT received $300,000 in federal funding this year from the Federal Highway Administration to help find and train women and minorities.

The department went to a contractors foundation to get help with training new workers. In 2000 the foundation started working with migrant councils, Indian tribes, high schools and state employment agencies to find minorities and women who wanted to work in highway construction.

Forty-five students graduated from the training program funded by the federal grant last month. Trainees started with 160 hours of classroom work on construction mathematics, reading blueprints and road grades, and then were introduced to power tools and other construction equipment. After the classroom work was completed, students gained on-the-job training as interns assigned to highway construction companies. After successfully completing coursework, the students received certificates from the National Center for Construction Education and Research.