Baton Rouge contractors, educators teaming to develop future craft workers

More than a dozen of the area’s largest contractors met this morning with representatives from 75 high schools for Program Partners Signing Day, which brings big business and local educators together to reinforce their shared commitment to developing the state’s next generation of craft workers.

At the annual event, sponsored by the Pelican chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., educators “signed” to align their teaching materials to meet industry demands for entry-level craft workers such as carpenters, welders and electricians.

Contractors, meanwhile, “signed” to provide the tools, materials, and personnel required to meet those goals. For companies like Performance Contractors and Turner Industries, which were among those participating today, Signing Day is a significant step toward addressing what continues to be a vexing problem in the state—the lack of skilled workers.

Industry has led efforts over the past five years—since an estimated $100 billion industrial construction boom was first projected for the state—to train enough workers to fill the expected number of jobs. It’s getting better, company officials say, but it’s not yet where it needs to be.

“We still see a shortage at the journeyman level, (which are skilled workers with 3-5 years experience)” says Performance Contractors training coordinator Steve Bomar, who sits on several advisory boards and regularly visits local high schools and middle schools to preach the message that there are many pathways to success.

“We still have to overcome the stigma that a four-year college degree is the only path to success,” he says. “I have to explain to parents that a college graduate might only make $35,000 in an entry level job. We can start someone out at $50,000 and after a few years of additional training they can do much better than that.”

Ray Neck, training director at Turner Industries, says his company has seen a lot of improvement in recent years, as school systems around the state have begun to coordinate and communicate with industry representatives and industry associations like ABC.

“Overall, it’s much better,” he says. “Workforce shortages come and go but for us it’s only a problem if there are a couple of really big jobs at the same time.”


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