January 5, 2016

Creative problem solving



As part of our annual forecast survey (see page 14), we ask producers which issues pose the greatest challenge. Over the last two years, finding and retaining workers has re-emerged as a top concern; 63 percent of this year’s survey respondents said it was a challenge. This was a 13-percent increase over last year’s survey and represents a sign that, for many producers, business is on the upswing.

Having reviewed the results of our survey, I was quite pleased to see that one producer, Graniterock, is taking a creative approach to finding workers. In a company newsletter, Henry Ramirez, vice president of aggregate division operations, notes that finding the next generation of skilled workers is high on the list of priorities for him and his local peers.

"While it may seem counter-intuitive that an industry that laid off thousands of workers during the Great Recession now faces a talent shortage, the predicament is real," Ramirez says. "Today, in our region, hundreds more construction craft workers are retiring each year than are entering the workforce."

One of the reasons for the shortage is that many public vocational and technical education programs have been dismantled or underfunded, he says. Unions, local governments, and educational institutions have also failed to design an effective solution. So, Graniterock has launched The Construction Academy.

Ramirez says that Graniterock partnered with two California high schools, Watsonville High School and James Lick High School, to introduce a construction-focused education program to more than 50 students.

"The purpose of The Construction Academy program is to develop a set of local, young adults who can become a part of the Graniterock workforce (or the local construction workforce) after either their graduation from high school, community college, or a university," he says. "In addition, we hope The Construction Academy more broadly introduces to a generation of young adults the potential career opportunities in the heavy civil construction and construction materials industries."

To date, students have visited heavy civil construction job sites, have discussed education and career paths with construction professionals, and have been introduced to job opportunities available in the mining and materials research fields. In the future, they will tour ready-mix, asphalt, and recycling plants, learn how to estimate projects, and see concrete and asphalt work performed at their local schools, according to estimates and plans they’ve developed.

While Graniterock has long been an industry leader in partnering with local schools to improve educational opportunities, The Construction Academy takes its existing programs to a new level. I look forward to hearing about how effective it is in developing the company’s next generation of workers.

By Therese dunphy, Editor-in-Chief