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Craft Work in the Construction Industry

Craft Work in the Construction Industry

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By Luke Carothers

To increase the number of workers in the construction industry–particularly craft workers–many companies and firms are finding success by turning to local communities.  One of the companies at the forefront of this push to recruit locally is McCarthy Building Companies.  Although they have offices across the United States, McCarthy’s NorPac region is leading the way by driving education and demystifying false expectations about the construction industry.

The construction industry is facing a shortage of both craft and non-craft workers, especially in light of a coming surge in infrastructure investment.  Craft workers are on the frontlines of the work being done, physically putting the construction work into place.  In this position, craft workers set the standards for safety, which is a priority for McCarthy.  Despite the importance of craft workers, many companies are struggling to keep up with labor demands.  The same can be said of non-craft workers in the industry.  Rod Riddle, Senior Vice President of Specialty Markets for McCarthy, believes these issues stem from both a lack of awareness and several misconceptions about what the construction industry entails such as the types of jobs involved, education level and skill set needed, and wage expectations to name a few.

The first steps to increasing this awareness and dispeling these misconceptions are education and communication.  In the bay area, the executives within McCarthy’s NorPac region are taking these challenges head on by actively communicating and educating potential talent within the local community.  This serves to further drive awareness and interest about career paths in the industry.  Many potential workers are driven away from the industry, as Riddle points out, because there is an inaccurate narrative that craft workers need a 4-year education to obtain higher wages.  Riddle further notes that it is a completely viable option for these young workers to instead attend a top-tier trade school or apprenticeship program that will allow them to earn the certification and training needed to work on a construction jobsite and have a fulfilling career.  Additionally, as building designs become increasingly complex, the required number of craft workers with backgrounds in Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing as well as technology and science will increase accordingly.  

By better educating potential workers in the local community about these paths and communicating with trade and professional schools, companies will be better suited to recruit new craft workers into the workforce.  In the Bay area, McCarthy is implementing these ideas to great effect.  For McCarthy’s work on the UC Davis Replacement Health Tower they set up a local hire program that has been critical in keeping an open line of communication and engaging with local workers.  Also in the region, McCarthy has taken further steps to increase the number of craft workers including maintaining relationships with local colleges and creating job excitement among the youth by presenting and participating in high school career fairs and hosting Construction 101.  These steps have allowed McCarthy’s team in the region to increase awareness around construction careers in the area and have provided moments for youth to directly connect with experts in the field.

However, Riddle points out that recruiting new talent to the construction industry is only one part of the battle.  Once these craft workers have entered the industry, support should be in place to help in their careers.  As a part of McCarthy’s Craft Imperative, they have taken steps to provide an unmatched workplace for craft professionals.  As a part of the initiative, McCarthy offers a formal craft training program which is led by full-time training professionals.  This program is based on the notion that highly skilled teams create safer and more productive job sites.  As such, it supports not only hands-on professional development and training, but also increasing internal promotions and allows employees to create a career path within the company.  Furthermore, McCarthy is accredited with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).  Another aim of these programs is to increase communication.  For construction, the primary link of communication between project leadership and craft employees is the foreman.  As such, McCarthy has implemented the National Foreman Development program, which aims to improve communication, directly impacting safety, quality, and productivity.

As more infrastructure and building projects gain funding in the next decade, the construction industry needs to find solutions to tackle the coming labor shortage.  By working within their local communities to not only recruit new talent, but also support that talent in their professional careers, construction companies can start to chip away at the craft worker labor shortage.  In this pursuit, McCarthy’s region represents and innovative and forward-thinking solution to our shared problems.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.