By: Earl Hall, Executive Director, Syracuse Builders Exchange
Earlier this year I reported on the opportunities and challenges in the industry over the next few years. With an abundance of anticipated work and labor shortages impacting employers’ ability to bid or perform the work, project owners will rely upon the innovative solutions construction contractors adopt to deliver completed projects on time and within budget.
My last article touched upon the labor shortage but did not provide details or solutions on what leaders in our community and industry are doing to address how to attract and retain the next generation construction worker.
Years ago, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) launched their Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, with approximately 14 career pathways supplementing core class requirements such as math, science, etc. One of the first pathways was Construction. As a SCSD CTE Advisory Board member, helping SCSD start the construction curriculum was rewarding and timely. Today, the SCSD’s construction curriculum is being recertified by the New York State Department of Education, and used as a model for other suburban school districts which will launch their own construction career pathway program beginning in the fall of 2023.
Beginning in the fall of 2023, the SCSD will add to the construction curriculum a replica of the Syracuse Builders Exchange’s (SBE) electronic plan room, courtesy of Barryhund, SBE’s e-plan room software developer. This educational platform will include all of the features of the e-plan room, but will only have a few projects for the teachers and students to work with, including actual SCSD building projects which have already been completed.
The new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) is scheduled to open in September 2025 for students from the SCSD and suburban school districts. Over the past year, executives from construction management firms have been working with SCSD curriculum writers to develop the new construction management career pathway curriculum which will be launched in 2025. This curriculum will also include SBE’s e-plan room technology which is used by over 900 companies and thousands of their employees throughout the year.
Union training funds have been investing in attracting and retaining future construction workers into their trades, evident by the increased use of technology to identify and attract candidates. Many of the trades training funds have turned to social media, internet marketing, on-line hiring applications and other technologies to reach the younger generation. The investments have paid off with new entrants into apprenticeship programs, which is leading to new investments into enhanced training facilities. Such examples include a 12,000 square foot expansion to the Carpenters Local 277 training facility in Liverpool and the anticipated new construction of the Laborers Local 633 training center in East Syracuse.
It remains a pleasure to be heavily involved in the many exciting initiatives throughout central New York that are leading to new and younger people entering the construction industry. While there remains much more work to be done, including working with the Utica Central School District later this year to launch their new construction career pathway program, the measurable results from the above efforts and programs remain encouraging. Collaborating with school administrators, construction industry executives and utilizing technology have all enhanced the construction industry’s ability to become more attractive to high school students who have a desire to begin a career as a next generation construction worker.
In my next report, I will share an amazing story about an Afghanistan immigrant who came to the United States legally, with nothing more than the clothes on his back and an incredible desire to achieve his dream of becoming a project manager of a premier construction company.