CHEYENNE – Contractors, tradesmen and representatives from Laramie County construction companies met in Cheyenne recently to discuss industry labor shortages, recruitment and opportunity for growth.
As part of a Next Generation Sector partnership between the Wyoming Business Council and Department of Workforce Services, Laramie County decided to focus on the construction industry to connect public sector leaders with those on the ground.
The Next Gen strategy aims to position professionals in various industries statewide as the leaders in economic growth, with public sector entities creating policies in response – a reversal of how such partnerships sometimes operate. The ultimate goal is for Next Gen partnerships to develop in several sectors within each region.
Construction industry reps landed on three categories for opportunity during the meeting. They included how best to recruit talent at both entry and skilled labor levels, how to shift the sometimes negative perceptions of construction trades, and ways to guarantee local companies are given priority to bid on local projects.
“We need to try to make sure national construction companies with hordes of resources do not always outpace smaller, regional ones working to get a leg up,” said local construction foreman Dennis Ettleman. “If we care about economic retention here, we need to keep our resources here. The tight labor market does not help, either.”
A recent study released by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America found that 80 percent of construction firms report they are struggling to fill hourly craft positions that make up the construction workforce nationwide.
Association officials believe the shortages pose a significant risk to future economic growth.
“Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist, in a news release “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”
In Laramie County, roughly 3,500 residents were working in the construction industry in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but locals say they are still struggling to find qualified employees.
“We need to educate people that this industry is high paying and in demand here,” Ettleman said. “I know many of my peers are having similar issues with retention.”
In the coming months, the remaining regions throughout the state will host their own Next Gen launch meetings focusing on industries such as education and health care.
“There are several regions that will be launching their partnerships statewide, and it was inspired partly by the ENDOW effort with discussion about education, workforce development and diversification,” said Noelle Reed, advanced industries manager with the Wyoming Business Council.
“We have found this Next Gen model through the work of the Wyoming Workforce Development Council and thought it made a lot of sense to bring community partners together.”