Eddie Clayton knows business is brisk in the southeast United States. As Contracting Strategies Manager for Southern Company, he is running on all cylinders to support the electric utility giant’s major capital projects and plant outages while the utility is gearing up to bring two new nuclear units onto the grid; one in 2017 and another in 2018.
Clayton has been a part of the construction industry since his youth and as he has worked his way up the ranks. He has experienced projects where skilled workers were hard to find, where projects lagged and costs soared.
As a result, Clayton is a major proponent of planning ahead. He is Vice President of the Central Gulf Industrial Alliance (CGIA), which is an organization devoted to enhancing the skills and availability of labor; co-chairs the Workforce Development and Industrial Relations Committee for the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), and co-chairs the Southeast Manpower Tripartite Alliance (SEMTA).
To top it off, in 2007 Clayton was one of ENR’s Newsmakers of the Year; the result of sharing his workforce knowledge with peers in the industry.
So it should come as no surprise that Clayton has been involved in the Construction Labor Market Analyzer® (CLMA®) since it was just an idea discussed at a meeting, almost a decade ago. Clayton recalls that, “SEMTA did some workforce research around supply and demand. We did a five-year projection on availability and it was so useful that Daniel Groves [Operations Manager at CURT] and I started talking, CURT became involved and an initial model was put together.”
When George Gritziotis, Executive Director of the Construction Sector Council (CSC) in Canada presented at a CURT meeting around the same time, things really began to take shape. Gritziotis was there to present on how owners in Canada were sharing their labor-related supply and demand information and how this was enabling the industry to train skilled labor ahead-of-time, instead of rushing to bring in bodies that might not even be available, to fill an immediate void.
“We had a bit of an ‘aha’ moment,” recalls Clayton. “We saw the big picture and realized we needed to create a labor forecasting tool that would predict supply and demand regionally and for the entire country.”
With about $3.5 trillion worth of capital and maintenance project data in its system, the CLMA® has done just that. Clayton says that while there are other labor forecasting tools available, for Southern Company’s needs, the CLMA® is their primary choice.
“This past spring there has been a severe shortage of labor in our region,” says Clayton. “Several of our projects have run short but with a tool like the CLMA®, we are able to make educated decisions on how we want to handle the shortages. We are better equipped, better able to plan, and we are in control of the outcome instead of simply reacting to a situation that was previously out of our hands.”
Clayton says that during the recent recession a lot of craftsmen retired or moved to other industries, and to top it off, recruiting for the construction industry was almost entirely halted. Now demand has picked up and an explosion of activity in the oil and gas industry is taking workers away from construction.
“Skilled construction labor is not something we can outsource to another country,” says Clayton. “This is why our industry needs to step up, get involved and become engaged in the issue. Now that we can predict supply and demand, we can prepare the skilled labor we need so that when they are done training, there are jobs waiting. The result will be projects that run a whole lot smoother, not to mention better maintenance of our country’s infrastructure.”
Clayton urges the entire industry, owners in particular, to step up and input their data in the CLMA® system. “All the predictions of a labor shortage are coming true. There can be no more excuses to participate”
“Owners and contractors who use tools like the CLMA® are going to be better prepared to mitigate labor risks,” predicts Clayton. “I think the others, the ones who aren’t being proactive about workforce planning, are going to quickly realize they have a crisis on their hands.”
For more information on CLMA®’s origins, visit www.curt.org/The-Voice-Magazine.aspx and download the Summer 2011 issue; the article starts on page 29.
The CLMA is designed to help owners, contractors unions and other industry stakeholders dynamically understand the skilled labor market and more effectively know how to employ risk mitigation strategies.