In Utah, we enjoy a robust economy that’ steadily improving. Business is booming, our quality of life is sublime, and a feeling of security and prosperity abound. We boast one of the strongest economies in the nation while being among the fastest growing states.
But, it’s not all sunshine and roses. All this growth requires more workforce labor. We face growing demands with fewer laborers entering trades. At Geneva Rock, the workforce deficit hits hard and it’s hitting companies hard all around the country. Some think that it’ll right itself when the economy levels out, as it always does. They say it’s rough now, but we’ll get past this and it’ll balance out soon.
I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. Statistics show that we truly are at crisis levels. One big factor is the high number of Baby-Boomers entering retirement. Until now, they have filled many of the vocationally oriented careers. Millenials and Gen Zers either have less affinity for skilled labor or they’re not being successfully introduced to the trades. For every five Boomers retiring, only one Gen Y/Zer enteres the construction industry.
In seeking solutions, we have to address the core challenges of why fewer young people are choosing construction.
What we find is that parents, teachers, and school counselors are pushing four-year degrees for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, higher education is a wonderful pursuit, but a balanced approach, with the trade careers promoted as being just as vital in a robust economy and a great fit for many students is key.
If singular emphasis is placed on jobs requiring college degrees, we won’t fill other vital and viable career opportunities. And, a balanced society needs all types of workers. College isn’t for everyone and many would enjoy working with their hands, performing skilled tasks, being outdoors, and having variety in their work. We need to introduce them to better-fitting career options.
BUILDING THE BUILDERS
Uplifting the construction industry nationally and regionally will take a paradigm shift. The best place to start is Utah. We’re a leader in technology and economic growth. We need to be at the forefront for fighting the trades crisis curve.
We do this by uniting as an industry for the common good. Industry leaders, including Geneva Rock, refuse to “cherry pick” laborers from other companies. While this is honorable, we need to come together to ensure for a bigger worker pie. It’s time for an abundance mentality and partnerships with others in the industry, educators and government agencies. The industry-education-government combination is the solution. If we exert a little muscle together, we can start this shift and educate the public that there is honor, value, satisfaction, stability, and financial reward in construction careers.
We invite you to join us in this pursuit. Let’s take stock of our own company culture to ensure that we’re inviting to potential workers and let’s listen and adjust where necessary. Let’s team with education and vocational training providers to create curriculum for the jobs we need filled. I know we can turn the tide.