By Debbie Dickinson
Few people are as articulate, funny, and seemingly everywhere at once on the subject of promoting professional craft skills as Mike Rowe. Hardly a week goes by that he isn’t being interviewed on a major news network, firing up Facebook, hosting a new television series, launching a foundations, or delivering scholarships.
To paraphrase the man who claims he has no real credentials to address the widening skills gap (plus other topics such as infrastructure decline, offshore manufacturing, and currency devaluation): Opportunity is not dead. People just need to be willing to work hard, have the right attitude, and get skills training for jobs that actually exist.
So where does someone go to get the training they need? There isn’t just one way, there are many paths leading in the same general direction. Which is great and terrible at the same time because you might have to look around a little to find a program that fits.
It starts with young people getting involved in activities that introduce them to those opportunities—SkillsUSA, student chapters of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Lift & Move USA, Build Your Future, Build America, and others. It is going take government and private enterprise making funding available to people who want to earn a certification or credential like welding, equipment operation, pipefitting, etc. Alabama’s model is enviable. Recently, the state’s newly created Craft Training Board announced that 500 people this year will get construction skills training thanks to $1.8 million in grants.
It’s also going to take unions, community and four-year colleges, training organizations, and employers to create curriculum that matches the skills needed. NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curriculum and assessments, which CIS provides, with portable credentials. Anything but stagnant, this not-for-profit education foundation is constantly refreshing its offerings. Just this summer they released updated electrical and pipeline programs.
I read recently that the number of colleges offering construction degrees is up 31.8% and the number of students enrolling in construction trades degree programs is up 26.4%. (Construction Equipment, August 10, 2017)
While these tend to be four-year construction management tracks rather than skilled trades, it’s still encouraging, as there is also a supply and demand problem for qualified middle management construction employees. According to a study by the Project Management Institute, between 2010 and 2020, demand for project management professionals will grow by nearly 700,000 in the United States alone. The June 2017 issue of Construction Executive magazine profiles several colleges that are retooling their construction degree programs. It included a directory of schools with these programs. Georgia Tech is one of those highlighted. Earlier this year Georgia Tech launched a professional master’s in occupational safety and health, the first program of its kind in the state.
Finally, employers must develop from within. Safety, quality, and productivity depend on equipping people with the skills they need to do the work. Training must be task specific and it must be ongoing. One and done is deadly thinking. Employers should look for training partners that can facilitate that kind of embedded, organizational training.
So back to Mike Rowe. While he regularly brings a dose of reality to all the talking heads in the news, he also puts his money where his mouth is. Through the MikeRoweWorks Foundation at profoundlydisconnected.com, scholarships are available to qualified individuals with a desire to learn a skill that is in demand. The Foundation has been instrumental in granting more than $3 million in education for trade schools across the country. So if you have the desire, Mike’s got the money, CIS has the training. Let’s get rigging.