The good news is that the pace of construction work all over the United States has taken a remarkable turn for the better. The bad news, according to Kevin Hilton, Chief Executive Officer of IMPACT, is that the construction depression significantly depleted the ranks of practically every sector of the construction industry. IMPACT is a partnership between the Ironworkers and their contractors.
“We have seen shortages in virtually all markets across North America,” says Hilton. “The deficiency is most acute in the Gulf Coast and this is for all skill sets, however, welders are especially in short supply. The good news is the Ironworkers have been able to man all requests.”
The importance of training the next generation of workers is obvious. For the Ironworkers in particular, the demand is growing and while Hilton says ironworker numbers have rebounded back to their pre-recession levels, the need for these skilled workers is also increasing. This is why the Ironworkers are so focused on delivering training. In 154 training centers, the apprenticeship and training department delivers programs, which are typically co-located with a local ironworker union.
Hilton explains, “These centres are constantly recruiting, training and delivering highly skilled workers to job sites every day. The ironworkers currently have well over 17,000 apprentice trainees who mix classroom and on-the-job experience over a three to four year period. They weld, rig materials and equipment, signal cranes, reinforce concrete and build every sort of structure using steel, concrete and many other materials. And once they complete their training, they are safe and skilled journeymen.”
Building this type of workforce is necessary and beneficial for the entire industry. After all, asks Hilton, “What is more economical and beneficial than having a skilled, local workforce that is available to build the structures of today and maintain those structures decades into the future?”
For construction owners, in particular, Hilton explains that, “As we introduce more and more participants in the industry to Ironworker training centers, it instantly becomes obvious that recruiting, training and delivering a local workforce is the best option for the owner community.”
One way in which the training centers determine how many apprentices and what kind of apprentices to train is by subscribing to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer® (CLMA®). Hilton says this valuable analysis tool enables IMPACT to see where the strongest demand is for their recruiting and training efforts. “We have used CLMA® for this specific purpose and we have found the data to be eye-opening!”
In addition to training the next generation of Ironworkers, executing projects better and more efficiently will also help lessen the impact of the skilled worker shortage. “We have found that many best practices explored by owners are not actually used on job sites,” comments Hilton. “On our job sites though, they are standard operating procedure. As productivity increases, the pressure for manpower decreases.”
“It’s just like comparing a pro golfer to a duffer,” explains Hilton. “The pro takes fewer strokes and hits the ball much more accurately.”
Training workers to be productive, efficient, highly skilled and safe is essential in order to build better. Ironworkers across North America are learning these skills in order to prepare for more than just a job. “We train ironworkers for a career,” says Hilton.
The CLMA® is an online application designed to help owners, contractors, unions and other industry stakeholders dynamically understand the skilled labor market in a collaborative environment and know how to more effectively manage project labor risk.