Workforce Crisis: Unique Training Facility Provides Multiple Workforce Solutions

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2008 Vol. 63 No. 11

There's no single solution to solving current and future workforce shortages of construction workers. Organizations usually must consider several options to address their individual situations.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment in our ongoing series examining the skilled workforce shortage in many areas of the underground construction and rehabilitation industry.

As planners develop programs to find and retain qualified employees, training almost always is an important consideration. New employees must be trained and current personnel require additional training to replace personnel who have retired or left the company.

The impressive Training and Research Facility opened last year by the Mears Group was not a specific reaction to anticipated worker shortages, but it is expected to play an important role in ensuring Mears has the trained personnel it needs to complete projects in the years to come.

Unlike many contractors and utility providers, the Mears Group is not anticipating a large number of vacancies resulting from the retirement of senior employees, said Kevin Parker, director of safety training environment compliance.

"The primary labor issue for us is finding new employees as the company's workload increases," said Parker. "Equipment operator positions seem to be more difficult to fill, along with experienced crew foreman and supervisors, and applicants experienced and certified in NDT (non destructive testing, and corrosion technicians are always in demand."

Significant role

The Mears facility plays an important role in training new employees and those already on the payroll.

"New employees go through several days of safety training followed by job specific training," said Parker. "The job specific training covers the tasks they will have once they get to a project site. As their job tasks change, then on the job training takes place or we bring them back to our facility for additional training. As our new facility matures, we continue to add to it to address areas we believe will improve safety and make a more efficient work force.

"Employees with management potential go through various training avenues, both in house as well as third party. If we cannot provide a specific type of management training utilizing our own instructors or programs, then we'll bring to our facility a course designed in that specific area of need."

Parker said continuing training is important for two reasons: safety and productivity.