MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Approximately one third of all skilled tradesmen in the construction industry are over the age of 50. With their retirement on the horizon, training programs are not producing enough young workers to replace those exiting the industry. To combat this trend, Alabama's construction industry will launch an education and recruitment campaign Monday, Aug. 23 to bring new people to the commercial and industrial construction industry.
The campaign issues a rally cry to young people and those who influence them, challenging them to: "Go Build." Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of the popular Discovery Channel series "Dirty Jobs" and the nation's most visible supporter of skilled labor, is partnering with Go Build Alabama and will appear in the initial advertisements for the campaign. Go Build pairs well with his mikeroweWORKS.com initiative, which calls attention to the growing skills gap in the trades while providing a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to investigate a career in those vocations.
"We used to tell our kids that learning a trade was a great way to secure a worthwhile future," Rowe said in a message to Alabamians that will be featured on the GoBuildAlabama.com website. "We don't tell them that anymore. Today we tell them if they want to get a really good job they are going to need a four year degree. We've lumped the skilled trades into the 'alternative education' category and turned the entire field of study into some sort of vocational consolation prize. Is it any wonder we have a shortage of qualified tradesmen today?"
Rowe said the national skills gap is the unintended consequence of society's focus on the college degree and its devaluation of skilled trade jobs such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers.
"There are opportunities in Alabama right now that most people don't even know about in construction," Rowe said. "These opportunities aren't alternatives to viable careers; they are viable careers. ... I've had a front row seat to all different kinds of work, and I'll tell you something -- there's nothing more important to our country than skilled labor."
The Go Build campaign is a product of the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute, which was created by Act 220 of the 2010 Alabama legislature, sponsored by Senator Wendell Mitchell and co-sponsored by Senator Del Marsh. ACRI is funded through an employer fee levied upon wages paid to certain skilled construction workers on commercial and industrial job sites across the state. Contractors pay $90 for every $100,000 in applicable wages. The fee structure is designed to generate $1.75 million per year to fund the program. ACRI is working with Birmingham-based advertising agency Big Communications on the development and implementation of the Go Build campaign.
The Alabama Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, the Alabama Association of General Contractors and the Alabama AFL-CIO worked closely together to lobby for the creation of ACRI for the purpose of recruiting skilled labor. Other organizations also supported the initiative – the American Subcontractors Association, the Alabama Construction Trade Unions, the Alabama College System, the Alabama Road Builders Association, and the Alabama Construction Users Roundtable.
"This initiative is the result of an unprecedented partnership of industry leaders and forward-thinking corporate entities," said ACRI Executive Director Tim Alford. "The state's economic development along with the creation of infrastructure such as roads and power plants are dependent upon a capable workforce."
The anticipated shortage of skilled labor has been a hot topic among construction industry insiders since 2007, when the U.S. Department of Labor predicted that the construction industry would be short about 1.5 million workers by 2012. A 2005 report from the Construction Labor Research Council had already issued a similar warning, emphasizing that many workers were 50 or older and would be leaving the industry in the next decade. The largest portion of the anticipated shortage was in skilled trade jobs for commercial and industrial construction such as boilermakers, carpenters, equipment operators, electricians, insulation workers, pipefitters and welders.
The recessionary period that followed the 2007 report put a temporary end to nationwide panic as the construction industry began to shed jobs, Alford said. But industry leaders in Alabama are already seeing deficits in skilled labor. They also anticipate a jump in demand as the economy recovers. Potential growth in Alabama's auto manufacturing industry, enhancements in transportation and infrastructure, and upgrades in the energy sector make Alabama a prime location for a construction boom.
"This problem is not necessarily unique to Alabama," Alford said. "But the industry here recognized we are one of several states that could see our potential growth suffer due to a lack of a skilled workforce ready to build roads, healthcare facilities, power plants, manufacturing facilities and office buildings."
The Go Build campaign includes statewide print, online and television advertisements driving to the GoBuildAlabama.com website, where people can learn more about skilled trade careers, find information about training programs and much more.
ACRI will also be doing direct outreach to high schools beginning this fall through a partnership with the Alabama chapter of SkillsUSA (www.skillsusa.org).
"I would like to go down the list alphabetically and work with every state to implement this kind of proactive program," Rowe said. "Look out Alaska."
SOURCE Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute