RAMAPO, NY—More than 600 high school students from the lower Hudson Valley will meet with some two dozen construction and building union leaders and private-company employers this spring to learn about career opportunities in the building trades. The event, called “Hudson Valley Construction Career Day,” will be held Fri., April 12, at Rockland Community College here.
Marking its 20th anniversary this year, Construction Career Day is presented by the Westchester-Putnam Counties Consortium for Worker Education and Training, Inc.; the Building Contractors Association (BCA), the Construction Industry Council (CIC), the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services and three leading Building & Construction Trades Councils in the downstate region.
Construction, one of the nation’s largest industries, is facing a chronic labor shortage. Recent Department of Labor figures project a national shortfall of skilled trade workers, and that shortfall is expected to grow dramatically in the coming decade. Why? A recent snapshot of the labor force found that more than 71 percent of skilled-trade workers in the U.S. were 45 years and older, with 18.6 percent of that group between the ages of 55 and 64.
To reinvigorate the labor force with younger workers, Construction Career Day will be staged to educate high school students about both the diverse career pathways and opportunities as a member of the building trades.
If the trend continues, the building trade unions in the region are projected to see an even larger shortage of workers in the next five years to perform commercial construction and public works projects.
One leading employer group said the shortage is a major concern. “It’s important to constantly replenish the rank and file with qualified, well-trained recruits,” said Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “We see the shortage for skilled labor running across most unionized sectors of the building and construction industries in the region – from commercial and institutional to heavy/highway and manufacturing.”
Many factors are contributing to the shortage, Mr. Pepe added. “There is considerable construction activity right now caused by a resurgence in the economy since 2010. Despite slowly climbing interest rates, developers and builders—and even the owners of public works facilities—are still prompted to go forward with long-delayed projects.”
Edward Doyle, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, Inc., one of the lead presenters of the Career Day expo, noted, “There is an overwhelming amount of infrastructure renewal of our roads and bridges, our clean water, waste water and aging utilities that must be repaired and improved. The public infrastructure facilities that we see every day out our car windows were built by skilled labor workers as many as three to four generations ago. Many of the members of the Building Trades have retired over the past decade, and now is the time to replenish this workforce.”
He added, “But we’re not replacing our retiring workers fast enough. It’s time for our nation to begin again to reach out to attract qualified and capable recruits who will help build our future.”
Students who enter the trades after high school will be expected to have a high school diploma or a GED. (General Equivalency Diploma) in order to qualify for bona fide apprenticeship training programs. There are more than 20 trades represented among the building and construction trade unions.
For more information about the program and job opportunities in the Building Trades, contact the Building & Construction Trades Council (Westchester/Putnam) at (914) 762-2492, (Rockland) at 845-634-4633, and the (Hudson Valley) at (845) 565-2737. For more information on Construction Career Day, contact Matthew Pepe of the BCA at (914) 631-6070.