There’s strength in numbers. That's why members of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s construction industry have joined forces with Partner4Work to create a mutually beneficial collaboration through an industry partnership.
“The partnership started very organically,” said Cynthia Shields, Partner4Work’s director of strategic partnerships. “We have a stream of funding that pays for business-driven, pre-employment training, essentially helping companies find and prepare the people they need for their entry-level positions.”
A number of construction businesses sought to tap into that stream of funding and other public resources. That sparked an idea: Bring these businesses to the table, listen to their issues, and help brainstorm solutions.
“The group found this roundtable a positive experience that connected them with their peers, informed them about tools available, and the businesses asked that we convene them regularly to continue the discussion,” Shields said.
“After a few meetings, we decided to pursue state industry partnership funds together to help advance the skillsets of their current employees, hoping to move them up the ladder and create entry-level openings that we could then fill from our pool of job seekers.”
In October, the state Department of Labor and Industry awarded Partner4Work $200,000 to help construction firms recruit, train and advance workers. These dollars will be used to train 77 people and help more effectively connect young adults to careers in construction.
Jason Boyd, owner of Hampton Mechanical, Inc., got involved with the Construction Industry Partnership almost at the jump.
Hampton Mechanical is a construction company that trains its employees through a sheet metal apprenticeship that is registered with the state Department of Labor and Industry in conjunction with Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Pennsylvania. ABC is a national construction industry trade association representing nearly 21,000 chapter members.
“The partnership that Hampton Mechanical has with Partner4Work is an effort to train and develop a lasting construction workforce in the merit shop sheet metal and HVAC trades,” Boyd said. “There is plenty of construction work in western PA and Hampton Mechanical is always looking for candidates to fill positions. The partnership has been successful because our goals are aligned. We all want to create and retain a well-trained and safe workforce.”
Shields stressed that the construction partnership works because it is employer driven.
“The employers take the group where they need to go to keep the industry moving forward and their individual organizations competitive,” she said. “It also provides valuable insight into the industry that our workforce development partners can use to improve their individual programs. We have about 12 community-based organizations that are preparing people directly for jobs in the trades or construction industry that can benefit from the employer perspective. This partnership helps them get that.”
While industry partnerships primarily aim to help businesses recruit and train, job seekers ultimately will reap the rewards.
“Young people are always looking to grow in a career, and there is plenty of room for growth in the construction industry," Boyd said.
"We want our employees to have a chance to grow through apprenticeships. This partnership with Partner4Work will allow Hampton Mechanical to open up training and apprenticeship opportunities to employees and potential employees."