By Robert Schmelzer and Jason Sutton
Arizona could soon be reaping the benefits of a program named “Go Build” aimed at addressing the skilled trades labor shortage by revitalizing the industry through a remarketing campaign. Celebrity Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” joined Go Build as the official spokesman for the campaign. Mike is passionate about creating a renaissance in the trades. During his recent testimony before the US Senate he said “In high schools the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of ‘higher education’ to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled ‘alternative.’ Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the- job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of ‘shovel ready’ jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.” His endorsement has encouraged many people to find out more about the program which has led to incredible results.
The Go Build Program
The Go Build program was initiated after the Alabama Workforce Development Initiative (AWDI) completed research about the talent shortage facing the construction industry. It concluded that opportunities for careers in the construction field were not being clearly defined to young people. Students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors were unaware of the construction industry’s wages, opportunities, and how to obtain information about various skilled trades. This information gap led to the creation of the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute that initiated the creation of Go Build Alabama. “If we sit back and allow our skilled craftsmen to retire without training the next generation of workers we are not going to be able to build and maintain the infrastructure we need for sustainable growth across the country,” said Bob Woods of Executive Director of AWDI. Since its Launch on Labor Day, 2010 over 4,000 people have become registered users of GoBuildAlabama.com.
Based on the success of Go Build Alabama, Go Build has been launched in Georgia and is currently in development in 14 other states. “Since the launch of Go Build Alabama the Alabama Community College System has seen a 70% increase in enrollment in technical skills program, with over 90% of students siting Go Build as the reason for their enrollment,” said Woods.
Bringing Go Build To Arizona
Under the leadership of the Arizona Energy Consortium (AEC), the Workforce Committee, co-chaired by Jason Sutton and Bob Schmelzer, is working with the founders of Go Build on an initiative to bring the program to Arizona. The AEC is a credible, member-driven voice for Arizona’s energy industry, providing meaningful input into the long-term strategic planning for industry growth statewide. Committee members include prominent commercial and residential builders who have already begun to feel the restraints of increasing competition for skilled labor in all areas, not just the energy field. The trades most highly affected include electricians, plumbers, welders, carpenters, concrete workers and truck drivers. “In order to achieve a lasting solution, the labor shortage problem needs to be addressed early and often with the students who will become future trades professionals,” commented Sutton.
Due to the fact that Arizona has benefited from a long tradition of steady growth in the construction industries many training opportunities exist in our state including 104 active registered apprenticeship programs, and a multitude of vocational programs offered by community colleges and private educational facilities. “These programs do an excellent job of training workers for a lasting career, earning a very respectable middle-class wage. Sadly they lack the appeal they deserve that will only come through a concerted, on-going marking effort like Go Build Arizona,” stated Schmelzer. The Arizona effort is envisioned to be broad based including skilled jobs in high-tech, aerospace and machining in addition to commercial and residential construction trades.
The AEC Workforce Committee is implementing a state-wide campaign that will include presentations to thousands of high school guidance counselors, printed marketing material and paid advertising in the form of radio, television and electronic billboards. Industry partners have already begun to emerge and presentations to public and private economic development organizations have been met with a high level of interest. When implemented, this program will benefit the lives of the current and emerging workforce for generations to come in Arizona. For more information on the AEC or Go Build visit aztechcouncil.org and gobuildalabama.com.