15144882270_2be6789151_zcroppedBy Tom Underhill, Executive Director of Steel Erectors Association of America The construction industry has been bemoaning craft labor shortages for years. If you Google the topic, you’ll see reports from organizations such as the Associated General Contractors, FMI, NCCER, Construction Users Roundtable and others. It has been reported that as many as 2 million craft positions are unfilled because qualified workers aren’t available to do the job. Contractors that want to tap into market trends regarding labor can use the Construction Labor Market Analyzer (CLMA). At this month’s Crane & Rigging Conference/Industrial Crane & Hoist Conference in Houston, Texas, Brian Stamper of the CLMA presented how this data can identify market supply, peak head counts and timing predictions by region for nearly 50 different craft disciplines and 14 professional positions. Highlighting just one region of the country, Stamper showed the market demand for ironworkers in Texas and Louisiana. Current labor supply for reinforcing ironworkers is 2,158 people. The peak head count needed in the region by October 2015 is 21,753. That’s a shortage of 19,553. For structural/welder ironworkers, the deficit is predicted to be even greater—31,681 ironworkers are needed. 15145117197_4a24228789_zcroppedA half-day Construction Career Pathways Conference hosted by NCCER last month at the Association for Career and Technical Education’s annual conference brought industry and education professionals together to discover how they can work to solve this problem. A key message from educators was that they need our help—whether it’s opening up your offices or project sites for visits, serving on local community or school advisory boards, mentoring students or offering internships. One of our members, Buckner Companies, takes this need to heart. They hosted more than 250 students, teachers and steel industry professionals for Steel Day on Sept. 19. At the Construction Career Pathways Conference, Boyd Worsham, vice president of the Haskell Company, a Jacksonville, Florida-based design-build firm, said of the employment gap, “I can’t fix 2 million, but I can help 10-20 young people at a time.” That’s exactly the approach Steel Erectors Association of America (SEAA) is taking in regards to ironworkers. During the last year, the Association has made significant progress in developing craft worker training, testing and apprenticeship programs for our members. Five craft test sites were established in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. By the end of 2015, our goal is to have 20 more in place around the country. 15145034518_7ec8bb10b7_zWe also wrote, applied for and received certification from the U.S. Department of Labor for an apprenticeship program for ironworkers. SEAA member companies can use the program as a template for establishing registered apprenticeship and NCCER training programs in their region that offer training prescriptions for journey-level workers to fill any knowledge or skills gaps. In addition, the ironworker apprenticeship allows merit shop contractors to utilize government-approved apprenticeship rates on Davis-Bacon wage projects in lieu of paying full journeyman wages for all employees, regardless of their level of training. Ultimately, ironworker apprenticeships increase competitive pricing. The skills gap and lack of career and technical education opportunities for young people is not only a business concern but a safety issue. I encourage you to join with other SEAA members to take action.

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.