Taking A Stance – Command Alkon and The Concrete Industry Management Program Work Together to Conquer the Skilled Labor Shortage

October 19, 2018 Karli Langner

Companies Finding It Difficult to Find Skilled Workers

According to MarketWatch, the number of people working in the construction industry is 315,000 higher as compared to last year. At the end of July, there were 273,000 open construction jobs, and employers just added a net new 23,000 construction jobs in September.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough skilled labor to work in the field. This makes it difficult to fill the positions that are available, and a big chunk of this issue is due to the rising costs of construction.

Completion times are longer due to the shortage of subcontractors and other workers, and many contractors have raised their pay, making it almost 10% higher than the private-sector average. The average hourly earnings for construction workers in September was $30.18, higher than the $27.24 earned by all workers.

Between 2006 and 2011, the construction industry lost nearly 2.3 million jobs. Despite the recent hiring boom, the industry still hasn’t gotten back to pre-recession levels. Only 1.5 million construction jobs have been gained over the last 7 years.

Another issue challenging employment growth–few younger workers are taking jobs in the construction industry. Construction recruiting is burdened by the fact that relatively few schools offer construction skills or counsel students to consider high-paying construction careers. 

"The collective cultural fixation on urging every student to go to college and seek office jobs means relatively few young adults are ever encouraged to consider careers in construction," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the Associated General Contractors of America chief executive officer.

Changing Our Culture's Perspective of the Trades

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) offers a way to help the industry continue to thrive. On campus, there is a School of Concrete and Construction Management, which offers the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program–a business intensive program designed to combat the anticipated shortage of managers needed to support the expected growth of the concrete industry.

With MTSU being in such proximity, it’s no wonder that Command Alkon has fostered a close relationship with the school’s CIM program. In fact, just this year, Command Alkon developed a Graduate Development Program especially for the graduates of CIM.

The Graduate Development Program is a 24-month program. A student will spend 18 of the 24 months rotating through various departments in the company to get a flavor for the contributions that each of them make towards the company and the industry as a whole. As you can imagine, this is a very unique experience, and this kind of exposure is something that most hired employees will never get the chance to experience. Once the student is finished rotating through departments, they can determine their strengths and which areas they would prosper.

“A lot of the time, we look to hire individuals with experience in the industry–but, that might be a little difficult to find in a student who just graduated.” said Michael Wolfe, People Business Manager at Command Alkon. “The whole point of this program is to provide an opportunity for these students to gain the experience that they need. Each department in the company has made the commitment that we are all going to contribute to the student’s success in some way.”

Hope for the Future

This being the first year that the program is available, Taylor Northern is the “guinea pig” for the Graduate Development Program. He started the program in June, and since then has been rotating through departments every two months. He is currently assisting the Accounting department, and will assist our Contractor Solutions team from a business development standpoint next.

“What I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is a very positive environment,” said Taylor. “This is a great opportunity because I get the chance to continuously learn and work with various departments.”

Taylor didn’t initially realize that he had an interest in the concrete industry until he was already in college. He went to school to play college football, got injured, and then decided to pursue a degree in business.

His father is an engineer, so he’s grown up helping his dad with household and backyard projects his entire life, which sparked an interest in construction. When he toured MTSU, he realized that the CIM Program is a mixture of both construction and business.

“At first I was a little hesitant to change my course of study, but I did my first internship in the CIM Program and I liked it, then I did my second internship and I loved it,” said Taylor. “I started becoming more involved in CIM and I’ve come to realize it’s like a big family, and the program provides many opportunities that I wouldn’t get elsewhere.”

For the last year, Command Alkon has been working to expand beyond its traditional products and services in to the Heavy Civil Contractor market, and this is an enterprise that greatly interests Taylor.

He understands that concrete and construction aren’t going anywhere, and neither is technology. It will continuously evolve and become more efficient. Amidst the heat of a labor shortage, there is hope for revitalization. This experience is a very exciting one for Taylor; his future and the future of the Graduate Development Program at Command Alkon looks bright!

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