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Colorado Contractor Sets Sights on Labor Shortage

Sat April 08, 2000 - West Edition
Troy M. Hawks

Considering the outstanding growth within the construction industry, for many companies the question isn’t a matter of landing another job, but where to find the workers to complete it. One Denver contractor took the matter a few steps further, and went out to find out why more young people weren’t entering the industry, despite the fact construction workers enjoy higher wages than many other industries.

As Bill Roberts, marketing director of Empire Construction of Denver, CO, explained, “When we went out looking for people to hire, we found that there were a disproportionate number of young people, and we saw very few minorities or women serving roles such as project engineers.”

Roberts said his company ultimately concluded that many high school students weren’t getting into construction, simply because they had not been exposed to the industry. Roberts said that very few of the high school students that he spoke with realized the potential career possibilities within construction.

With this, Empire developed the “Construction Sights” program, intended to introduce high school students to the construction industry. The program was launched in 1994, when Empire invited Denver high school students to the job site of the Adams Mark Hotel in Denver.

Since then, Empire has hosted similar field trips to various job sites including the United Airlines flight training facility, a correctional facility and the new Houston Astro stadium. The sessions are designed to provide the students with a close-up tour of the construction site, a broad overview of how to build the various facilities, and educational information about the construction industry.

During the visits students meet with senior management teams and learn about their educational background and experience. They also learn about the systems being installed in the facilities along with safety procedures followed at the job site.

“We’re trying to help the school systems by exposing these young people to career possibilities within the construction industry,” Roberts said. “We try to give them an understanding of the industry, they get to meet the project managers and tradesmen and they learn about the different jobs, what the compensation is, and what kind of lifestyle the workers enjoy.”

The students also hear from speakers representing the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and the Association of Building Contractors (ABC), who inform the students about training, and advanced education aimed at the construction industry.

Most recently, Empire provided 653 high school students with a first-hand look at the construction site of the new Bronco Stadium, which is scheduled for completion in August of 2001. The group included 40 students from Adams County District No. 12; 20 students from the Bennett School District; and students from North and West High Schools.

The students were selected due to their interest in architectural or construction careers, and the Career Education Center within the Denver Public School District also participated in the program.

“We’re having fun, we’re seeing a lot of young people brighten up when they hear of the possibilities within the field and we’re getting good feedback from the students and teachers and counselors that’s telling us that we’re on the right track,” Roberts said.

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