School Construction Workforce Shortages – Bracing the Gaps

Maryland school construction costs have more than doubled since the early 2000s. One possible contributing factor to increasing costs is construction workforce shortages in an industry that has seen several ups and downs over the past decade.

This issue was the subject of a panel discussion during MACo’s School Construction Symposium, which was held on June 30 at Rolling Hills Elementary School in Annapolis.

The MACo panel explained ways that we are seeking to fill shortages —including union and nonunion apprenticeship programs, workforce training at community colleges, and Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs in high schools. Christopher J. Trumbauer, County Council Member, Anne Arundel County, moderated the panel.

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The anatomy of a construction project reveals how Maryland’s school construction industry is tied to the larger economy.

Robert M. Aydukovic, CRE, President, Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation began the discussion with an overview of how school construction projects are organized between owners, contractors, and subcontractors.

Aydukovic pointed out that while some construction market dynamics are local, including workforce availability, each project has a relationship with national suppliers and distributors, too. This relationship comes through division-specific subcontractors.

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The construction industry is set to see tremendous employment growth in Maryland.

Bill Simons of Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. a member of Associated Builders & Contractors spoke next, describing the increase in construction workforce needs over the past few years, and the forecasted employment growth of the sector, with Maryland-specific and national-level data.

Simons shared a projection that the construction sector would grow by more than 12 thousand jobs annually from 2016-2018 in Maryland. He compared the industry’s growth to that of the health care field.

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The AFL-CIO maintained a training commitment throughout the recession to prepare for future needs.

Sonny Yeatman of the Maryland AFL-CIO Building Trades followed with insight into the apprenticeship training programs offered through AFL-CIO across 15 different crafts.

Yeatman shared how the Maryland AFL-CIO kept training individuals in the trades throughout the recession, even despite the lack of need at that time. The organization knew that on day the recession would end, and also had data to show that the current construction workforce was aging, and would need newcomers. For this reason, the AFL-CIO now has a robust network of apprentices that may be called up to work on construction jobs throughout Maryland.

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There is a wide range of career training opportunities available to Maryland high school students. The traditional construction trades are not the most popular programs, however.

Pat Mikos, Program Manager of the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Career and College Readiness, presented information on Career and Technology Education programs in Maryland high schools.

There is a wide range of CTE programs in Maryland high schools, including several within the Construction and Development Career Cluster. Students may choose courses from the traditional trades, such as electrical and plumbing, or newer programs in engineering and design.  The most popular of these is the engineering program.

Mikos described how the CTE programs are accomplished alongside other high school courses such that in their senior year, students are already earning an industry certification and/or early college credit in that field.

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Maryland’s community colleges support apprenticeship programs for students who are entering the workforce, or retraining mid-career.

Charlene Templeton, Assistant Dean of Continuing Education, Anne Arundel Community College presented on apprenticeship programs in community colleges as part of their mission to provide high quality and affordable education to Marylanders. Of the 16 community colleges who offer construction apprenticeships in FY16 3,646 students enrolled in 10,216 apprenticeship courses.

For more information view the MACo 2016 School Construction Symposium Workforce Needs and Workforce Development presentations.

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