Let's Not Lose Sight of Training
It's no secret that this past year has been very difficult for all of us who run a quality company. But most of us who have worked decades building a contracting business have been through difficult times before. We have seen the cyclical nature of construction. One minute we are booming; the next we're scrambling for the next job to bid. One thing remains true: we will once again face booming time when we have more work than we can handle.
During the last several years, we all faced shortages of quality workers to hire to allow us to bid on all of the work we had. And like in past boom years, the industry reacted by throwing money around in a feeble attempt to develop our labor force. But like previous years, we lacked the cohesive sustained effort to truly build our workforce. Over the past year, I have heard little about the need for workers. In fact, many contractors can't keep the workers they have busy. Once again, like we have done so many times before, the masonry industry goes into a shell and takes its eye off of the commitment to expand our workforce. This is a reality that the Mason Contractors Association of America will not allow to happen again.
At the MCAA Midyear Meeting in Boston, the Board of Directors approved the continued commitment of the MCAA in the area of workforce development. However, with one exception: MCAA will focus its total efforts on recruiting a quality workforce, primarily through our nations high schools. In the past few years, the MCAA provided career recruitment materials and then sought the participation of the industry's contractors and suppliers to seek career recruitment opportunities in our nation's 18,000 high schools... an effort that had marginal success.
What we seek now is to take a more proactive approach. Instead of asking contractors to make the contacts with the high schools, the MCAA will now continuously seek career recruitment activities with our nation's high schools. Several times each year, we will contact every high school in the country and seek out a career day. Once we have the commitment of a career day, we will then turn to our members and industry suppliers to conduct the event. We have a deep belief that once an appointment is made to speak to our nation's high school students, contractors will go talk to them.
However, we can't just leave the future of our workforce to conducting career days each year. The MCAA will also make available our "Check Out a Career in Masonry" kit to every high school career library. It is so important that when a young person is seeking out career opportunities, masonry has information in every career library. Clearly, this is an area where we have been most deficient.
Lastly, it is our goal and vision to drastically expand masonry classes offered in high schools. If a vocational class is offered in a high school in any trade, then we must work hard to offer an option in masonry. If a high school student has the opportunity to try their hand at masonry from a motivated and competent instructor, then the industry will benefit from an increase in motivated individuals who seek apprenticeship classes to enroll in after graduation.
During the past several years, when we had more work than we could bid on, is there any doubt that we continued to lose market share to our industry's competitors? We may have all been busy, but if we had an increasing number of skilled workers, we could have increased our industry's market share, not just kept ourselves busy with what we had in front of us.
As the only association that represents all of the industry's mason contractors, the MCAA and its Board will allocate increasing association resources to developing our workforce. Regardless if you are a union or open shop mason contractor, we must all get behind educating the greatest labor force our industry has ever enjoyed. I urge you all to get behind the MCAA, join the association today and support our efforts to make you more successful. If you are not sure you are a member, call us today at (800) 536-2225 and join the one association that represents your interest as a small business owner.
About the Author
William McConnell is the owner of Architectural Paving & Stone, Inc. He has served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America and on the Board of Trustees for the International Masonry Institute. McConnell was a recipient of the 2005 C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award.