In his published work, The Star Thrower
, Loren Eiseley crafted a tale about a man on a beach picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. This portion of the story has been adapted countless times and is perhaps better known as a parable about attacking a large challenge (thousands of stranded starfish) one step at a time and teaches the moral of the power within each one of us to make a real difference.
How then to make that difference?
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President. He positioned himself as a job creator with a focus to “Make America Great Again.” We are optimistic that he will use the energy and construction industries as a job creation engine through energy policy, infrastructure rebuild, etc. Creating the jobs might be the easier task, as we face significant challenges including the lack of skilled workers and supervisory personnel in many construction segments. We do, however, have high pay jobs, clear career progression, superior skill development and training, innovative technologies in many positions, and an entrepreneurial culture. Each aspects is largely unknown outside of our industries. It is time we stopped hiding our light under a bushel and sing like the sirens to draw talented individuals to our shores.
The Underground Construction Workforce Alliance (UCWA) is already working to make a difference that shines our light brightly. The UCWA takes a locally focused effort to design solutions to meet the workforce demands in high priority shortage trades and markets. They have set up a pilot effort in central Ohio to touch the gathering market of the Utica shale, and the distribution territories of Dominion, Duke, NiSource, and Vectren. The effort represents an industry collaboration among owner, contractor, and training site, be it a technical school or a union apprenticeship program. It was founded by the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA - www.dcaweb.org
) as a way to help their members and member’s customers to jointly design and build solutions to meet the workforce demands in high priority shortage markets.
The overall intention is to accurately forecast supply and demand; match the training programs size to demand; effectively train individuals in demanded skills; ensure the training is high quality and standardized; direct graduates to local employers hiring and paying high wages; and support career progression once employed. It is not possible to accomplish this feat alone and the collaboration strategy among owner, contractor, and training site is a necessity and core to UCWA. In summary, simple, collaborative, and effective efforts that yield paying jobs today.
Over the last 20 years, we have seen the end of vocational training in high schools, acceptance of the concept that everyone needs a 4-year college degree, a dramatic increase in under-employment after graduation, and that trades and particular construction trades are not attractive careers. What has this yielded? Underemployment, inability to purchase a home, lack of marketable skills, and un-dischargeable school debts. Nationally, seven in 10 college graduates from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt of $30,100 on average.* , Incidentally this amount is approximately what would be necessary as a down payment on $150,000 home which is now out of reach for many of these graduates.
How then to make a difference?
1. Participate in UCWA or other similar organizations
2. Get involved locally with ACE Mentoring (www.acementor.org
) and use their tools to raise awareness with local high school students of what we have to offer
3. Join your local community college industry board to help refine training programs
4. Hire from your local community college
5. Toss just one starfish back into the ocean
“’Do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!’ He bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, ‘It made a difference for that one.’”
You can make that difference!
Mark Bridgers is a consultant with Continuum Capital, which provides management consulting, training, and investment banking services to the worldwide utility and infrastructure construction industry. He can be reached at (919) 345-0403 or MBridgers@ContinuumCapital.net and followed on twitter at @MarkBridgers. For more information on Continuum, visit www.ContinuumCapital.net.
*The Institute for College Access & Success, Student Debt and The Class of 2015, 11th Annual October 2016, pg. 1.