(below is an update of an article originally posted in 2016)
As George Casey said in “Labor Pain and Labor Gain”, a 2016 blog for Builder Online, “the real innovation needed right now (in the housing industry) is to recreate a narrative and a system that enables and supplies sufficient trained labor to build the housing that the country needs.”
“Despite all of the neat stuff we saw and discussed over two-plus days we were there (at the 2016 Alliance Innovation Summit), the discussions with builders around the tables continued to gravitate back to a more fundamental issue: the growing lack of trade labor that it takes to build homes and communities at a level that is needed to house people in the USA.”
In his blog, George sets the stage for a much needed, industry-wide retraining and recruitment campaign – a pretty compelling argument on the viability of a trade-focused education versus a college degree in today’s economy, for many who are in search of a career.
It’s clear that no matter what side of the political fence you sit on, the government won’t bail us out of this labor issue: it’s ours to solve as an industry. While we’ve heard (and talked) a lot about the problems, we haven’t seen much being done to actively tackle the issue.
In a blog I wrote for Builder Online, I talked about the four key angles we should explore as an industry that George and I incorporated into the Alliance agenda for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017:
Transferring knowledge and skills from aging trade experts
Retraining and recruiting – broadening skills of less scarce trades, actively recruiting women, people of color, and military re-entering the workforce
Investing in education, locally
Leveraging alternative building strategies
As we did back then, we've continued to see some pockets of innovation going on with Alliance members, sponsors and others in the industry. We've been sharing stories here and there, but Labor will be a higher priority for us in 2021. We hosted a 3rd Tuesday event in January — highlighting the efforts of hammr's online community for next generation trades, the emergence of Leading Builders of America's Building Talent Foundation, the work being done at Tuskegee University to engage women and people of color in professional development and employment opportunities, and innovations at play in The Brewer Companies, the leading plumbing contractor in Phoenix, Arizona.
These folks and others are part of a Working Group we've launched this year to help drive change through the Alliance. During our first meeting this March, we will set our goals for 2021 into early 2022. If you're interested in learning more and lending your expertise, contact me for more details.
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