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Editor’s Note: The following comments are in response to the March Editor’s Watch column written by Underground Construction Editor Robert Carpenter, entitled “Labor: Inhibitor To Growth?”
I read your editorial on lack of skilled labor with interest as I'm a civil engineer working for a local government and receiving Underground Construction due to my interest in trenchless construction methods. I'm also a baby-boomer, set to retire in less than 2 years along with a number of my co-workers. You, your magazine, and the industry you represent could solve the labor shortage by advocating subsidized training (e.g. grants to community colleges) for trenchless construction education.
Did you know that the average college education cost is over $100,000 these days? Can you imagine yourself graduating from college or university with that burden of debt to pay off for the next 10 to 30 years?
Why can't the oil, gas, and utility industry subsidize the training of the type of workers your editorial says we lack? We don't have to look to Hispanics with their language barrier to fill the employment gap.
If the jobs exist, as you say they do, then these trainees and associate degree graduates should be knowledgeable about safety, traffic control, utility locates, equipment maintenance and a host of other items, including bi-lingual Spanish English communication, which if not practiced on the job, becomes a cost to the underground construction contractor.
We may even see these graduate workers like what they and stay for higher wages, or return to civil and mechanical engineering school and graduate with knowledge to rebuild our crumbling underground infrastructure.