Home » Could Veterans be one Answer to Construction’s Worker Shortage?

Could Veterans be one Answer to Construction’s Worker Shortage?

by The Keystone Contractor
American Soldier

As the construction industry struggles to fill positions and grow its workforce, it is working harder to expose military veterans to careers.

A new partnership between the Keystone Contractors Association, trade unions and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is designed to show veterans associations and PA CareerLink representatives all of the roles that veterans might fill in the field.

KCA members build Pennsylvania

“The strong work ethic, timeliness, positive attitude and experience in working as part of a team make veterans a good fit for construction”

Jon O’Brien, executive director of the Keystone Contractors Association, Navy

Breaking stigmas

The first step, he said, is correcting the misconception that all construction work occurs on the job site.

“Employers have that vision that if you’re a veteran, you should be a carpenter or a plumber. So, we had that stigma that we had to address. These veteran groups were all kind of in the same mindset as well, saying the only jobs in construction are field jobs.”

O’Brien said KCA is focused on broadening the scope of thinking by pointing out that construction has roles to fill in financial management, accounting, estimation, project management, human resources and other tasks.

He’s also working hard to break the mindset among state job advisors to first steer veterans to the state’s exploding warehouse industry, which is competing with construction, manufacturing and other fields for workers.

He said PA CareerLink representatives who focus on working with veterans have peppered him with questions about what it’s like to work in construction.

“What’s it like to be a field guy? A carpenter? What’s the training? What’s the job site like?”

Bringing veterans behind the scenes

O’Brien figured the best way to answer some of those questions was to show them. He has coordinated with labor unions to host tours at three training centers this year.

Tours and demonstrations have been held at the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters’ training centers in Duncansville and Lebanon, and the Laborers’ District Council Training and Learning Center in Philadelphia.

Attending the events were CareerLink representatives, veterans’ organizations and KCA members.

“It’s beneficial too for the union side and the contractor side, in that we’re learning from them,” O’Brien said. “What questions do veterans bring to these groups? What are their concerns when finding a new career? It kind of opens our eyes and helps us when approaching them.”

“It’s been positive the whole way around.”

Future tours and demonstrations are planned, including with the International Union of Operating Engineers. Career fairs also may be held in conjunction with CareerLink.

Check out other articles in the Fall 2022 issue of The Keystone Contractor!

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Chris Martin, Editor-in-Chief
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