Metro East construction trades busy, but need workers


A “lot of construction” is going on, but there is a need for more skilled trade workers, and both unions and employers are working to bring them into the business sooner.

That was much of the focus of a construction roundtable sponsored by Madison County Employment and Training and the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department-Workforce Development Group.

It was one of a number of events sponsored through the year on different topics, ranging from manufacturing to transportation, and was held Tuesday at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville.

CHOOSE YOUR CHOICE GIFT CARD OFFER TODAY

Tuesday’s event included panel discussions dealing with secondary and post-secondary education efforts to encourage students to consider skilled trades; discussions with several nonprofit youth initiatives; and a representative from the Illinois Department of Transportation talking about both the large numbers of construction projects going on right now to how minority- and women-owned businesses can get a share of that.

“Construction is strong,” said Tony Fuhrmann, director of Madison County Employment Training.

He cited the announcement of the Main Street Grants program the day before, and the recent announcement about the Rebuild Illinois plan.

The Main Streets grant program was announced Monday, including a stop by Gov. JB Pritzker in Alton to announce a $3 million grant to restore historic buildings and develop the “Wedge Innovation Center” incubator.

Other grants were announced for Edwardsville and Collinsville. The statewide total is $106 million.

Construction is booming,” Furhmann said. “They have people coming in (to apprenticeship programs), but they can use more.”

Others at the event agreed.

“For the carpenters, there certainly is a high need for entry-level workforce to train for the apprenticeship program,” said Alex Gromada, who runs the Carpenter’s Union apprenticeship program out of Belleville.

But in addition to bringing in new and younger workers, they are also looking for skilled carpenters to work with and mentor the new workers.

Fuhrmann echoed that.

Fuhrmann also noted that in general, the construction trades are seeing older people coming into apprenticeship programs.

Part of that is the long-standing emphasis on four-year degrees, which may or may not correspond to the workforce needs.

“Everybody’s been pushed to college,” he said, adding they get out with a degree, no job and a lot of debt.

“Schools are realizing that not every kid is four-year-degree ready,” said Lee Reese, program coordinator for workforce development for St. Clair, Randolph, Clinton, Monroe and Washington Counties. “Kids are being assessed now to look at where they are and what their interests are, and then looking at a career pathway that might equate to sustainable living.

Gromada said they have put an increased emphasis on recruiting at a younger age, and they are going into schools as early as eighth grade.

He said there are a number of advantages to working in the construction trade.

“With all the construction trades, the union apprenticeship programs, that training is provided to you free as you’re working out in the field,” he said. “It’s not just going to school, it’s a combination of on-the-job learning, and you’re coming into the training center at some intervals.”

He also noted the skills learned are very portable.

“The carpenters, as well as all of the construction trades, are looking for people who want to make that a career. It’s hard work but you’re going to earn a very good wage,” he said.

He noted the roundtable was “very helpful” in providing insight into what others are doing.

“We always make connections, more recruiting opportunities,” he added.

Part of the discussion was how the unions, businesses and local high schools or vocational education centers can help students transition from high school to jobs.

Reese said traditionally apprenticeship programs are done by unions, but they are looking at high school level paid internships.

“If they’re not interested when they leave high school it’s going to be hard to capture that talent,” he said.

However, several speakers said part of the issue facing some of the high school programs is the age restrictions. In many cases workers must be at least 18 for insurance and other purposes, making it difficult to involve the high school students interested in the trades.

They added schools are working with businesses and unions to find solutions to those problems.

One of the final discussions included a presentation by Jonathan J. McGee, director of the Office of Business and Workforce Diversity with IDOT.

“Specifically my job is to drive equity in state and federal contracts, both on the workforce side and the disadvantaged business side,” he said.

The Main Street grant program, as well as the announcement of additional Rebuild Illinois projects, and federal money available through the American Rescue Plan Act means there is a lot of opportunity for both minority workers and minority- and women-owned businesses.

In general, “disadvantaged businesses” work as subcontractors for prime contractors on larger projects, he said. Those disadvantaged businesses are certified federally, and states have specific goals for hiring and contracts.

“This is important because we have the highest goal in the nation, at 20,27 percent (woman and minority contracts),” McGee said. “This is a historic time. There’s a lot of money for our (disadvantaged businesses), and a great opportunity for our workforce.”

He specifically cited projects involving MetroLink, MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, and America’s Central Port.

For information about employment and workforce training opportunities, call 618-296-4301, visit the Madison County website at https://www.co.madison.il.us/ or visit the department’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MCETD.

Source link

Metro East construction trades busy, but need workers

CHOOSE YOUR CHOICE GIFT CARD OFFER TODAY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top