An Update on the Construction Sector
Over the last six weeks, conversation has shifted from training and workforce development, to job site safety and an effort to keep construction up and running across Oregon. Schools are closed, training is at a standstill, and workforce development efforts have focused on averting layoffs and helping people navigate unemployment insurance. It’s no surprise that many of the inquiries received have been less about the skilled worker shortage, and more about the current status of Oregon’s construction sector. Since Associated General Contractors Oregon Columbia Chapter (AGC) has been at the forefront of this conversation and because most recipients of this newsletter are educators and trainers, we thought it would be helpful to hear where the construction industry is currently at, and what we see happening form here.
When the Oregon shelter-in-place order was delivered by Governor Brown, AGC began working to ensure its members and the construction industry as a whole were ready to respond. Immediately, a heavy focus was placed on keeping construction workers safe and healthy amid the new work environment. AGC’s safety team quickly began developing job site guidance, a social distancing officer job description, job site posters and banners, and pivoted to an online training platform to provide contractors with the necessary safety training to keep their workers safe while continuing to build. The ability to quickly respond and get trusted and well-vetted resources into our contractor’s hands undoubtedly helped set the stage to list construction as an essential business. And while AGC staff and it’s safety team worked tirelessly, it was the work of a broad coalition that coalesced to share resources and advocate for the industry that made the difference.
As Oregon considers reopening, we have begun to look at how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and what is needed to get back to where this sector was before COVID-19. In a survey conducted by AGC of America in early April, an increasing number of contractors have reported cancellations of upcoming projects and shortages of equipment and materials as a result of the pandemic. In some parts of the country, contractors have had to layoff workers due to project closures. Thankfully, Oregon’s construction sector has remained open which has allowed contractors to avoid large layoffs for the moment. There is a massive amount of future uncertainty, but a workforce shortage is still anticipated. COVID-19 will not be stopping the 41% of construction workers who will be retiring within the next 10 years. And because the industry has struggled to fill the pipeline with younger workers, the construction industry could be hit harder than most sectors by Baby Boomers retiring. Now, more than ever, is the time to ensure the gains made in CTE education are realized and efforts to improve the image of construction careers are not forgotten.
For more info on AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter’s COVID-19 Response, click here.
For more info on the national construction sector landscape, visit AGC of America’s COVID-19 response.
Virtual Work-Based Learning
Build-Oregon has been active in developing and distributing materials that highlight the construction industry and its careers. We also help connect K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities to contractors across the state to provide opportunities for their students to learn about the industry. Most of the time this occurs through site visits – what better way to experience the industry than to visit an active construction site? As we all know, site visits aren’t currently happening, so both industry and education have had to shift to providing these experiences virtually. Below are some examples of these shifts. If there are other opportunities to virtually connect students to the construction industry, let us know!
Todd Construction is performing work at La Salle High School in Milwaukie. Recently, they began offering Hard Hat Video sessions for students and their community. Students can learn about the construction process and the jobs and careers offered by the industry. Todd Construction is also performing work at other school districts and plans to develop similar videos for students at those projects.
Inline Commercial Construction connected with students in the Hillsboro School District through the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce’s School-to-Career program. Through a video call students learned about the construction industry, available careers, aligned post-secondary training opportunities and received a guided tour through an active worksite. A link to the video is below.
In speaking with a few contractors, this move to virtual work-based learning opportunities could be a chance to increase employer engagement. Site visits can be complicated for contractors to manage as they juggle schedules and safety issues. Offering virtual site tours and interviews may actually be an easier option for contractors.
If you are looking for additional resources to teach the skilled trades online, check out Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Program.