Workforce Development

Therese Dunphy

December 1, 2014

As signs point to growth in the aggregates industry, one lasting impact from the Great Recession may be the lack of qualified workers to fill positions as demand grows. During recent weeks, worker shortage has been the topic of much discussion among state and national leaders, particularly throughout the construction industry. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) surveyed more than 1,000 construction firms and found that 83 percent are have difficulties finding skilled workers. Of particular interest to the aggregates industry is the fact that 59 percent said they could not find enough equipment operators.

When state and national aggregates association leaders met for a roundtable discussion with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez in October, the nation’s chief jobs officer was very interested in whether the industry could ramp up its workforce to fill newly created positions once a new highway bill is passed. Most industry leaders identified two key shortages: equipment operators and truck drivers.

To address worker shortages, Secretary Perez highlighted two federal programs that might help aggregate producers fill the gap, the Veterans Employment and Training Service and the Employment and Training Administration.

Mike Johnson, president and CEO of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, quickly picked up the ball on the veterans issue, and the association is preparing to launch its own Hiring Heroes initiative at AGG1 next March. Because many have experience operating large machinery, returning veterans are an excellent fit for many operators.

Through the Employment and Training Administration, the federal government partners with the states to create strategically designed job centers that determine which job sectors need workers and match up those looking for employment with those employers seeking qualified candidates. Several of the state association executives attending the roundtable said the discussion gave them a better idea of how they can work with government agencies to help operators in their areas. In fact, Pat Jacomet, executive director of the Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association, said that, due to the meeting, his organization was “reaching out to our state trucking association to see how we can help them fill the CDL void that many of our members are experiencing.”

These programs may help with placement of veterans and existing workers, but the task remains to develop a bigger pool of potential candidates. Through its “workforce development plan for the 21st Century,” AGC is calling for reform of the Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education Act, which funds technical education programs. It wants to see higher funding levels, as well as flexibility for states to fund programs that meet labor market needs in their areas.

As you continue to push Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill with stable funding, consider your employee needs and how to fill them. Some of these resources may not only benefit your company, but some well-deserving people as well.

 

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