Nevada needs skilled construction workers, NNDA director says

Rob Hooper recently attended a meeting with Steve Neighbors, trustee of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, which is building the mixed-use project on Carson City’s Curry Street.

“What did Mr. Neighbors say about 308 Curry Street?” Hooper, executive director, Northern Nevada Development Authority, said during NNDA’s monthly breakfast meeting Wednesday at Minden’s Carson Valley Inn. “He said, ‘We’re running months behind schedule because we can’t get skilled workers.’”

It’s no secret Nevada suffers from a shortage of construction workers.

The state has 21,000 skilled construction laborers right now but needs a total of 92,000 workers by 2020, according to a national survey, said Aaron West, CEO, Nevada Builders Alliance.

“Because of demand we’re seeing rapid inflation on everything, whether it’s single family or apartments,” said West. “I feel like we’re in critical times.”

What can be done about it?

West said the narrative that says all high school students should be destined for college needs to change as does assumptions about construction work.

“I hear over and over it’s seasonal work, I don’t want to be at the end of a shovel all my life,” he said.

NBA recently surveyed its 750 members and found 100 percent were hiring year round and 80 percent needed help finding employees.

Georgia White, director, Career and Technical Programs at Western Nevada College, said the industry also needs to look beyond graduating students.

“We need to encourage those in the 25- to 35-year-old category who are thinking about changing their careers to consider construction,” she said.

To that end, WNC has an accelerated nine-week construction gateway program that certifies workers.

“If you come to campus and speak to these classrooms you’ll get to know these students and can present your business and create excitement,” said White. “Then you’ll get first dibs on these students.”

Jim Meyers, Career and Technical Education program coordinator, Douglas High School, had similar advice.

He said the school is looking for businesses to step up with internships and apprenticeships for its career program students, who take two assessments, one for workplace readiness skills which measure soft skills like work ethic and an end of program assessment which evaluates specific job skills. Both provide nationally-recognized certification.

“That tells employers that this kid really knows his stuff and can do things right with a minimal amount of training,” said Meyers.

JOIN Inc., the federally-funded occupational training organization, is looking for the same kind of foot in the door for the individuals it trains and is offering an incentive.

“JOIN will subsidize wages up to 100 percent for 12 weeks,” said Denise Castle, executive director.

And once those workers are hired, it’s imperative businesses help them progress in their careers, said Bill Miles, president and CEO, Miles Construction.

“I’m a big believer in trying to promote from within your organization,” said Miles. “If someone has a basic work ethic and wants to learn it’s important for us to encourage those people.”


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