Another bid to boost workforce development (DJC Oregon, May 2018)
By Josh Kulla
Read the story below and here.
Workforce development has become a mantra in and around the building industry. It stems from an ongoing shortage of skilled workers in virtually every trade imaginable. Combine that with the red-hot Portland construction market, and it’s a recipe for even bigger issues down the road if left uncorrected.
That’s where events like Industry for a Day, held last week, come into play. Portland nonprofit All Hands Raised started the event as a broad strategy to help local educators guide young people into the many opportunities in the trades.
“The goal for today is to gain hands-on experience in these construction and manufacturing jobs so you can become a stronger advocate for our students and make them aware of those options,” Emi Donis, an All Hands Raised board member, told more than 200 educators last week. “You can help them gain the tools to help them with what they’re going to do after school.”
Industry for a Day is a collaboration involving All Hands Raised, East Metro STEAM Partnership, Impact NW, Portland Metro STEM Partnership and Worksystems Inc. The third annual event was held April 26 at the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute facility in Northeast Portland and at the job sites or factories of 38 participating construction and manufacturing partners such as Hoffman Construction and Boeing.
Following a large breakfast session, smaller groups of educators broke off from the main event to visit job sites around the region. Regardless of size or trade, all participating businesses have one crucial thing in common: they can’t find enough skilled employees to fill all their positions.
“We have an older workforce out there; you see it reflected in a lot of places,” said Hoffman Construction project manager Justin Paterson, who led a tour of the Multnomah County Courthouse project site in downtown Portland. “There are lots of reasons to get the workforce addressing those issues, not the least of which is a lot of people are ready to retire.”
Contractors have even taken to trying to lure retirees back to work, he added.
“They can actually sweeten the pot enough to get these people to come back,” he said. “It’s almost an insatiable need right now.”
It’s not likely to change either. The Oregon Employment Department estimates that more than 30,000 construction and manufacturing jobs will be added in the Portland area over the next decade. This comes on top of an anticipated wave of retirements by baby boomers.
Making things worse is an ongoing lack of vocational and technical education in public schools. This has been the case for two generations as schools have focused on the college pathway at the expense of the trades. The result is that jobs sit unfilled as contractors scramble to find needed labor.
Groups like All Hands Raised are left to step up and provide pathways for young people. Even with professional training centers such as the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute running full tilt to turn out apprentices, demand is not being met.
“With the stigma, and the lack of awareness among professional educators who don’t know about this pathway, out of no fault of their own, they just don’t know it,” said Nate Waas Shull, vice president of partnerships for All Hands Raised. “The old perception of dirty jobs is still a problem. Even jobs that are still dirty, but also pay $100,000 a year, we still need to do them. So that’s what this mission is about.”
Hoffman Construction is the general contractor for the $315 million Multnomah County Courthouse project. Now 18 months into the four-year construction timeline, plenty of time remains for apprentices like Benjamin Gilmore, 20, to get a piece of the work. He is pursuing journeyman status with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 at the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center in Northeast Portland.
Gilmore attended Benson Polytechnic High School, which offers a construction course. This, he told the Industry for a Day breakfast session attendees, gave him enough knowledge of the trades to spark a desire to pursue a career as an electrician.
Now, just two years out of high school, Gilmore is already earning a solid living and has an internship with Precision Castparts under his belt.
“It’s something that’s right out of the gate, you’re already making money and it’s something you can build on,” Gilmore said. “It’s a straight shot to having a successful life and a successful career.”
That’s why companies like Hoffman Construction work with groups like All Hands Raised, Portland YouthBuilders, Constructing Hope, Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. and many more to offer pre-apprenticeship programs for budding carpenters, glaziers, welders and other skilled workers.
“It definitely can be lifesaving; they can definitely turn your life around,” said Rosa Gomez, who is currently an apprentice carpenter training at the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute.
Gomez, while working mainly for Andersen Construction over the past year, has climbed the ladder to a job paying $24 an hour.
“Especially if you come from a background where your family has always worked in low-paying jobs, you can actually help out your family,” she said.
Industry for a Day Host Companies:
Daimler Trucks North America
Fortis Construction Inc.
General Sheet Metal
GrovTec US Inc.
Integrated Metals: Machine Tool Technology at Mt. Hood Community College
Integrated Metals: Welding Technology at Mt. Hood Community College
LiUNA! Local 737
McKenna Metal LLC
Microchip Technology Inc.
NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center
Northwest College of Construction
Nu-Tech Machining Inc.
O’Neill Construction Group
Oregon & SW Washington Mason Trades JATC
Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute
Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Local #29 Training Center
Pella Corporation – Portland operations
Portland Community College – Swan Island Trades Center
Portland General Electric
PCC Structurals Inc.
Skanska USA Building
Streimer Sheet Metal Works Inc.
Teeny Foods Corp.
Wright Business Graphics