BY: KEITH ELDREDGE, CPA, RKL
ABC KEYSTONE 2022 CHAIR OF THE BOARD
This month we want to focus on Workforce Development. The Workforce Development Committee is tasked with showcasing careers in construction and the talents of our members. They are to build bridges between the industry and educators on skills needed and careers available for K-12 and post-secondary students. The committee and staff liaison have been hard at work for many years building those bridges.
I want to talk about two areas that the committee has been working on and what they mean to you. The two areas to highlight are articulation agreements and reentry.
First, what are articulation agreements? If you are confused as to what an articulation agreement is, and why we should be working to get more, here’s an explanation. In a nutshell, these agreements give credit towards apprenticeship classes for coursework, grades and attendance while the student is still in high school. This allows our young adults to get a head start by taking and passing certain classes and gives them a leg up on a career in the trades. Passing Pre-apprenticeship classes saves their hiring employer money by getting certain training completed while they are still in high school. Just as here at RKL we talk with our new hires about the importance of passing the CPA exam early and completing any additional classes employees need before the demands of the job and life get in the way, it is the same with our young future craft professionals still in high school. By participating in pre-apprenticeship, they can complete their training earlier and move into their careers faster.
Why are these agreements important to you, the member? As we all know, there is a significant workforce shortage. For years schools have bragged about how many students they sent to college. How many of those students are now not employed in their field and or strapped with significant debt? Isn’t high school meant to get young adults ready for life after high school? Many of these children are not ready for college or not ever going to go to college. Why not help all the students, including those that choose a different path? Careers in construction are not limited to working in the field each day, nor are they limited in their upward mobility.
Many who enter the trades after school will become superintendents, project managers, and even business owners. Having this training and working in the field is invaluable experience and helps prepare them for these jobs. Many owners I work with started in the field.
Our VP of Education, Safety & Workforce Development, Stephanie Larkin, has been hard at work over the last several years developing these agreements. She has secured 24 agreements with various schools throughout our footprint. There are still several schools that have not yet signed up for these agreements which could help both the school and the students preparing for life after high school. We could use your help by talking with your school about these agreements and how to get in contact with ABC Keystone.
The second area the committee is working on is Reentry. We have a significant number of individuals that get released from prison each year. They need steady employment, and you need their skills. Your Workforce Development Committee has been working with various agencies across PA to understand the barriers to entering the construction industry for returning citizens. Removing some of these barriers requires the help of our legislators to make changes to update current laws.
Two examples of barriers where we need legislators’ help are the loss of one’s driver’s license and background checks. Many offenses for which someone can be convicted not only result in prison time, but also loss of one’s license. One these offenses that results in loss of a driver’s license is that of not paying child support. You can lose your license if you don’t pay child support and get sentenced to prison. But, without a driver’s license it makes it extremely difficult to get to jobsites and get current with your payments. This is difficult to understand.
Another barrier is background checks for access to certain jobs. Many owners require the contractor’s employees to have clear background checks. I understand this for renovations at healthcare facilities or schools. But, when it comes to new construction involving jobs that are not near any school or healthcare facility, does keeping those with prior offenses off the site make sense?
We need to have open conversations with our political leaders to understand the current laws and discuss ways to make changes that benefit both parties. With some changes, we should be able to help people return as a productive part of the community after they have served their time. I want to thank our Workforce Development committee for all the hard work they are doing and for making a difference in the industry.
On a final note, let’s discuss our workforce development events. In March, we held Construction Wars for our middle schools. In June, we will again hold All ’bout Construction Girls Camp. It is geared for girls from ages 14-19 and is scheduled for June 13-16. ABC Keystone is still looking for girls to apply for camp and female mentors of all levels to help with the camp. This is a great way to give back to the industry and to make a lasting impression on someone. Please consider volunteering. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Thank you for your support!
Posted April 11, 2022