The MCAA’s Legislative Committee will be working to get the “trades” back on equal footing with college-bound kids.
The MCAA’s Legislative Committee will be working to get the “trades” back on equal footing with college-bound kids.
May 18, 2016 7:00 AM CDT

Workforce - A change in perception and practice

Our industry offers tremendous opportunity

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The MCAA is getting ready to embark on a rather significant task of trying to change the way our country prepares young people for their futures. For far too long, we have had our government pushing kids to go to college when they graduate from high school. The trades have taken a back seat and have been relegated to the thing for kids who are “not capable of college” or for the “troubled kids.” As a result of years of this type of action, the perception young people — and in some cases, more importantly, their parents — have of our profession has taken a beating.

The MCAA’s Legislative Committee will be working to get the “trades” back on equal footing with college-bound kids. Oftentimes, high schools have monetary incentives to get their students to enroll in college upon graduation from their states. Our committee is looking to level the playing field and to give those same incentives to high schools that graduate “career-ready” individuals. The construction industry is a great industry that can provide wonderful opportunities to young graduates. Not only can they immediately become productive members of their communities, but construction careers provide tremendous opportunity for young people to advance to the level of owning their own business if they choose. Our message will be clear: we need a level playing field during high school in order to effectively recruit needed craftspeople into our industry. Without it, serious workforce shortages will continue to plague the industry.

One way the federal government gives incentives to states and schools to pursue certain policies is through Perkins grants. Congress is currently working on re-drafting authorization of the Perkins program, and the timing is perfect for us as an industry to be heard and work for prioritization on the trades in the next round of Perkins funding. We need to make it clear to Congress that our industry needs and expects its support in our effort to change perceptions of the crafts.

A prime example of this working well is what has happened in the state of Florida. For many years, the state rewarded high schools with a flat dollar incentive for any student who graduated and then went on to college. School districts had a huge incentive to steer kids, regardless of what was in their best interest, to go to college. The law was recently changed in Florida. It now gives the same incentive to school districts that graduate students who trained in school for a trade and then upon graduation became employed in that trade. These are “career-ready” students. This new law has repositioned the trades in the school districts dramatically and has leveled the playing field on the recruitment side. School districts now have an incentive to direct a student based on what is best for the student and his/her interests versus what is best for the district. This issue is a real problem in most states today, and we need to change these laws and disparities so we can effectively work to change perceptions of craftspeople.

The construction industry has a great story to tell. The American dream is alive and well in our industry. Every day, craftspeople work their way up, in some cases to becoming owners of companies. Mobility within our industry is completely up to each individual. Many business owners in our industry have a great story to tell. They started at the bottom and worked their way up. Of course, we have quite a few others in our industry who are very happy in whatever position they aspire to. They are able to provide for themselves and their families, and they also contribute to the great communities they live in.

Our industry offers tremendous opportunity. It is our goal to make those stories heard, to begin to change the perceptions and practices, and to give incentives to schools to graduate career-ready individuals no matter where that career path takes them. If you are interested in helping us make these changes, please join us in our efforts. Contact me today at .


About the Author

Jeff Buczkiewicz is the President and CEO of the Mason Contractors Association of America. Jeff has worked in the masonry industry for several years as the Executive Vice President of the Building Stone Institute and the Director of Marketing and Membership for the Mason Contractors Association of America. Jeff has also served as Secretary on the Board of the Natural Stone Council and is a former Board Member of the StonExpo Federation.

 

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