By Becky Collins • 2019 President    

Workforce Development. It’s a term we have all been hearing for several years. But what exactly is it and what does it mean for the real estate and building industries?

One definition, according to Wikipedia, is an American approach to economic development that attempts to enhance a region’s economic stability and prosperity by focusing on people rather than businesses. In simpler terms, it is industry recruitment and retention.

This is critical to the construction industry due to the high demands for labor and the dwindling candidate pool for our trades to hire from. During the Great Recession, it was reported that 40 percent of the workforce was eliminated between April 2006 and January 2011. That equates to 2.3 million jobs. And most of those people have yet to return to the industry.

Ross Britton, the HBA of Greater Austin’s Chair of the Workforce Development Committee, gave us this example at a recent board meeting. At a regional conference for HVAC, in Houston the nation’s 4th largest city, there were only 42 in attendance at a continuing education class. Of those 42 people, three were in their late 40s and the rest were in their 50s, 60s and 70s. And no one was in their 20s or 30s. What will this do in 10, 15, 20 years to the supply and demand for our labor?

The above statistics are cause for concern. In Austin, we are seeing major growth, higher demand for housing and affordability, and no signs of slowing down. To keep up with this demand, we need to find a way to bring new people into the industry and to retain those currently working in building through professional development and continuing education. The HBA realized that this was critical for our members and created our Workforce Development Committee in 2018.

Our Workforce Development Committee is dedicated to bringing awareness to the issue. One way they are accomplishing this is by bridging the chasm with the school guidance counselors and teachers so they can share the career opportunities to the students in the middle schools and high schools, as well as with the parents. Ross recently shared that the Parent Paradigm Shift will have a tremendous impact on our youth’s interest in careers in construction. This shift posits that: if parents have more knowledge of the opportunities outside of a traditional four-year college, many will encourage their kids to pursue a career in construction that provides them with great opportunities and a career that they enjoy (without the debt that many college degrees come with). The committee hopes to build upon the dreams/career visions of the youth and share with them a road map to success through play, education and mentoring.

Ross and the committee have been busy building relationships with the school districts and companies such as Goodwill and Skill Point Alliance and is excited to host our first career fair in October. The group is also working on developing a website dedicated to career opportunities within the building industry where employers can post jobs and look for candidates, while those interested in careers can find information on different trades, pay information, etc.

Anyone interested in bringing awareness to this issue is invited to attend one our Workforce Development Committee meetings which occur the first Thursday of even numbered months.

Awareness is paramount to progress. We can change the trajectory of our workforce with a simple conversation. Let the young people in your life and community know about your successes and your career path. Sharing your passion of the industry can ignite that spark in others. RL