By: Steve Conway, Pyramid Construction Services, LLC, A Quandel Company, ABC Keystone 2023 Chair of the Board
There is a growing trend throughout the Commonwealth where municipalities are enacting RCOs (Responsible Contractor Ordinances) for projects that are publicly funded in their jurisdiction. If your company competes in this arena, you will be faced with this in a community near you.
On the surface, an RCO appears to be something that ABC would support and encourage. The large majority of the RCO agreements tie a responsible contractor to a registered apprenticeship program. This doesn’t seem to be out of line based on what constitutes an “apprenticeship program.” An apprenticeship program must be registered and approved by the US Department of Labor or a State apprenticeship agency. It must graduate apprentices to journey persons. Who wouldn’t want the construction personnel on their job sites to be educated and trained on both their respective trade and safety? This is exactly what ABC’s craft training programs are tailored toward.
Now think for a moment about how many of the trades in our industry don’t have apprenticeship programs available for their trade. How can they participate in a project with an RCO? Likewise, an RCO does not recognize or credit the tradesperson that has been in the industry for 30+ years and was never afforded the opportunity to attend an apprenticeship program, but has mastered his or her trade through OJT. And what allowance is given to the student that has bought and paid for an education at one of our Commonwealth’s top-notch post-secondary trade schools (Pennsylvania College of Technology, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, etc.)?
The construction industry is ripe with training and education opportunities. Apprenticeship is only one of a multitude of ways to become educated in the trades. Manufacturers of building systems also offer training to installers – training that is specific to the trade, as well as the product. Equipment manufacturers offer training that is specific to their equipment. Colleges provide in-depth training and education, both practical and classroom, providing a well-rounded graduate to prospective employers. All of these are discounted by RCO agreements.
RCOs will force the municipalities that adopt them to procure bids from outside of their communities. Aside from large metropolitan areas, the local trades that provide job opportunities in these communities will not all be able to comply with these requirements. In turn, this will likely drive up the cost for the taxpayers and delay the start of projects.
Does your municipality have an RCO? Are they considering one? Talk to your local legislator. Talk to those that sit on the board of the governing authority for your community. Ask them if they truly understand the impact of these decisions. Is it the “responsible” thing to do?
Posted Feb. 13 2023