I turned on the TV last night to (I admit it) kill an hour with mindless entertainment, and what should come across the screen but a movie depicting the struggle between a bunch of kids and a contractor with a bulldozer.
It seems that the kids were out to protect a piece of environmentally sensitive land that the contractor was bent on destroying. This drama played out over the course of about 120 minutes (yes, I watched the whole thing, commercials and all) with the kids depicted as characters worthy of sympathy while the contractor was drawn as evil incarnate.
It was interesting how this film developed. The kids were shown doing all sorts of things to shut down the planned construction, even to the point of stealing the seat right off one of the developer's big dozers. This was all presented in a Robin Hood-esque way, pitting the little Heroes against the unsavory Baddies.
You may be able to guess which side of this conflict was populated by construction folks. And what happened in the end? I wish I could say the construction folks came out as heroes.
But that was not the case. In the end, the kids prevailed against the Bad-Guy-And-His-Big-Smoking-Diesel-Burning-Machines. Everybody cheered for the kids, and the guy on the dozer was hauled off in handcuffs, and dissolve to credits and then a commercial for something or other while viewers all over the place shook their heads sadly and said some variation of "yes, that guy on the dozer got just what he deserved."
Is it any wonder that it's sometimes so hard to get young folks to consider careers in construction?
Still, we try. Despite media portrayals like that one I saw the other night, construction remains a sound and solid career choice. Many in our industry are putting forth that message. And among the ranks of the young folks, it seems, some are even starting to listen.
Much of that get-the-word-out effort is directed at addressing the acute labor shortage facing the contracting side, of course. Groups like the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia are actively spreading the word, and one result is that students in high school, middle school and even younger are hearing the other side of the story.
Similar efforts are addressing recruitment in related areas too. For example, the AED Foundation (the nonprofit educational arm of the Associated Equipment Distributors, an association of independent distributors, manufacturers and other organizations involved in the distribution of construction equipment and related products and services) is focusing on reversing what it calls "the decade-long workforce shortage" in the area of well-trained technicians who know how to work on construction equipment. Their goal, according to a recent release from AED, is to "repopulate highly qualified technicians into the job pool for factory-authorized equipment distributor companies."
Currently about 400 skilled technicians graduate each year from various AED-accredited schools across the nation. That's a good thing, as the demand for such technicians is high. But thanks to a new strategic program called "Vision 2012," AED expects the number of qualified graduates to triple in the next four years.
Vision 2012 is the kind of proactive program that's needed to provide the targeted training that's needed to launch a graduate into a career in servicing today's highly technical machines. Through Vision 2012, the AED Foundation will build its community-based, school-to-work program through partnerships with post-secondary heavy diesel/technical schools across the United States. The goal? To graduate 1,200 ready-to-work graduates by 2012 — graduates who will be qualified to begin technical careers in dealer service departments serving the heavy equipment user.
Currently, 19 schools have earned certification by the AED Foundation, with expectations being that this number will soon climb to 30 AED accredited schools as other institutions work to meet the rigorous certification standards.
But "to get the grassroots going even faster," as AED puts it, the Foundation has set its sights on forming Alliance partnerships with 40 additional technical schools. Local AED dealers will help these schools as they work toward meeting AED's standards, and the result will surely be a new crop of well-trained and highly skilled technicians eager to build careers in this particular facet of our industry.
"The AED Foundation has committed significant resources to undo negative stereotypes about the construction industry," AED recently noted, "recruit young people to the technician field nationwide, train them close to home — where most students want to ultimately settle — and place them in challenging, well-paid careers."
I feel certain that there are a lot of young people eager to hear that message, too. All we've got to do is put it out there — and that's exactly what programs like Vision 2012 are aiming to do.