Building construction workforce

Aaron West

Aaron West

“Workforce Development” is not just a buzzword these days. It is a necessity in the construction industry and with good reason.

According to the Nevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation, Nevada increased its construction work force by 11 percent or 6,700 jobs in 2014 compared with a 3.4 percent increase across the U.S. Analysts project another 26,000 more jobs to be added by 2017.

The recently released EPIC report from the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada forecasts growth translates to over 30,000 homes and more than 30 million square feet of commercial space needing to be built over the next five to seven years.

How will this growth happen? Construction.

The big question is: Where will this skilled construction workforce come from? The answer: we need to develop our own strong, skilled workforce and we can do it in three steps.

First, we need to shift negative public perceptions about careers in the construction industry. Construction is more than simply swinging a hammer. From carpentry, to crane operator, to site layout and electricians, there’s a wide range of professions available.

Opportunities exist for all kinds of skills and aptitudes. From students in our middle and high schools who are planning their futures, to veterans and displaced workers from other industries, the construction trades provide viable career opportunities to those who want to pursue them.

For the past decade or two, society has been sending the message to our young people that they need a four-year college degree in order to be successful. This is simply not true. According to Build Your Future, when it comes to the trades, 27 percent of those with a post-secondary license or certificate earn more than a bachelor’s degree recipient. Further, the average skilled craft professional makes $6,242 annually more than a recent college graduate and without the large debt associated with a college education. For many, a career in construction can be the way to success.

Second, we need to make career and technical education a priority in secondary schools and make sure students who want that training can get it.

Going into construction is no longer something that you do because you can’t find a “real” job. A career in the construction industry demands a minimum level of post-secondary training and education. According to the Association for Career & Technical Education, 81 percent of dropouts say that “more real-world learning” may have influenced them to stay in school. Research shows that a ratio of one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out.

And finally, we need to provide a clear path from ambition, to training, to job placement as a construction craft professional. We need construction-related businesses in northern Nevada to understand the impact that pending growth will have on them.

We need the community as well as policy and lawmakers to invest in supporting and expanding educational and training programs that exist in our area. Then we must encourage potential workers to take part in internships, job shadowing, apprenticeships and on- the-job training.

Construction industry leaders have joined to form the Nevada Construction Collaborative whose main focus is workforce development. Headway is being made, momentum is gaining. Career and technical programs are ramping up in area high schools as well as Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada College and area skill development centers. Training and apprenticeship programs are in place, as well as Sierra Nevada Job Corps, JOIN and other organizations ready to provide assistance and skills training to move job seekers into construction careers.

But all of these programs are far from full. We need the potential work force to take advantage of these programs. Without them we cannot begin to meet the demand that is no doubt coming and coming fast.

The time is now to change our perceptions and swing into action to create a skilled and ready workforce. The clock is ticking. Will we be ready? Find out more at

Aaron West joined the Nevada Builders as CEO in June 2014, and is a registered lobbyist since 2001. Contact him at


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