Prepare the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers
The changing demographics and employment trends in the construction industry have caused many construction firms difficulties when filling key positions. A 2015 AGC survey showed 86 percent of responding firms reported having a hard time finding qualified workers and 78 percent predicted hiring conditions will remain the same or worsen as demand increases. Additionally, a quarter of those firms have passed on projects because of worker shortages.
As a response to the workforce shortage, AGC released a workforce development plan titled, Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan for the 21st Century, which outlines a series of measures AGC is urging national, state and local officials to adopt. These measures will make it easier for school districts, construction firms and AGC chapters to establish programs to train future construction workers. Many of the measures outlined in the plan are targeted at federal officials, including the recently-passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) — which streamlines much of the workforce development system, gives states greater flexibility to address the most critical local worker shortages, and strengthens employer engagement. However, significant areas for improvement remain to help recruit, educate and train the future construction workforce.
- Reform and Reinvigorate the Perkins Act. The Perkins Career and Technical Education Program is a $1.1 billion federal program that funds secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE). Perkins was first authorized by Congress in 1984, was last reauthorized in 2006, and is currently overdue for reauthorization, as the last authorization period ended in 2013. Perkins is the only funding mechanism available for CTE programs, making its reauthorization critical for funding training programs for future construction workers. In addition to reauthorizing the program, Congress should include these structural changes:
- Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
- Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
- Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as: industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and,
- Promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.
- Encourage Private Funding for Craft Training Programs. The federal courts have long recognized an exception to the federal antitrust laws for craft training programs that are the product of collective bargaining. However, open-shop contractors are not afforded the same opportunity to pool resources for training purposes. Congress should amend antitrust laws so that all firms have an opportunity to establish region-wide training programs.
- Make Veteran Training and Hiring More Accessible. Veterans are not able to take full advantage of construction training programs. Congress should enact measures to allow veterans participating in pre-apprenticeship training programs to receive the same amount of educational assistance as non-veterans. In addition, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (which provides a tax credit for hiring veterans and other targeted groups) should be extended.
- Encourage Partnerships Between Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Community Colleges. Programs that offer associate degrees to apprentices who successfully complete their training allow students to graduate debt free while learning valuable skills. Congress should encourage further collaboration between community colleges and registered apprenticeship programs, through grants and programs that have agreements with registered apprenticeship programs and proven records of success. Congress should also encourage community colleges to dedicate staff to serve as liaisons for the registered apprenticeship community.
- Expand Federal Apprenticeship Resources and Collect More Comprehensive Data on All Apprenticeship Programs. The limited federal funding for federal training programs could be better targeted with proper data on program performance. The Office of Apprenticeship should also conduct annual reviews of registered apprenticeship programs.