January 24, 2022
Most American business sectors currently suffer from the labor shortage, but the construction industry's hiring dearth reaches back further than the pandemic. Builders have struggled to regain workers in every trade since the Great Recession.
The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation reacted to the labor shortage by starting the Build Your Future Arizona (BYFAZ) initiative. Begun before the pandemic in 2019, the Foundation offered a Construction Workforce Collaborative to bring new employees into the talent pipeline.
"For years, the folks involved with the collaborative had been struggling just having enough entry level talent to replace the workers who are about to retire. Arizona is projected to need 254,830 construction jobs filled through the end of 2024, with 57,000 of those being carpentry positions alone," explains Paul Sanders, workforce development manager for the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation. "These companies sat down and identified the reasons why they were unable to have a steady pipeline of talent."
The Foundation cited the following causes for shortages in labor: negative sentiment regarding trades, misconceptions about career paths, and lack of knowledge about training opportunities. Leveraging this foresight, BYFAZ was launched. "The primary goal is to get young adults to consider careers in construction," Sanders says.
Dan Puente, founder and CEO of DP Electric, warns no quick fix exists. Changes in perception must occur. "We're pushing back against 60-plus years of a narrative that says you need to go to college to be successful," Puente says. "Folks don't understand the opportunities available in construction. A lot of people in the industry make six figures, and that's what Build Your Future Arizona is trying to convey to the public."
With BYFAZ, Sanders says that job seekers can meet one-on-one with industry professionals to talk about construction industry truths. The BYFAZ introduces prospects to various job opportunities—he touts a minimum of at least 400 available apprenticeships. Industrial professionals match interested candidates with fitting mentors.
"We're building the momentum to make construction a first choice for people. We have to work hard to change the perception for both students and parents," he says. "That's going to take some time. The industry is finally coming around and getting engaged, but I think we can do more."
Some blame negative perceptions for the construction labor shortage. By broadcasting the financial benefits of learning trades, the BYFAZ hopes to introduce new talent to profitable opportunities.