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Contractors Want Students to Consider Construction

Sat February 16, 2008 - West Edition
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TULSA, Okla. (AP) The construction market may be booming in Oklahoma, but contractors say they are finding it difficult to fill positions.

The Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma has developed a strategy to combat that and what officials believe is the neglected image of their profession.

“We haven’t put together a stated career path for young people that says construction is a viable career,” Dick Anderson, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma, told members of the CareerTech board at their monthly meeting on Jan. 17.

“We’ve done a poor job of selling our industry.”

To attract more employees, the association hopes to work with CareerTech to place an emphasis on the highlights and benefits of construction jobs.

“We don’t have the people we need to do this, and as a result, you see rising construction costs,” Anderson said. “Most counselors in the school system look upon construction as the career choice of last resort. But it’s not a bad living.”

The industry has not made a commitment to help CareerTech attract students to construction jobs, said Brent Dostal, president of Cantera Concrete Co., which has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Bentonville, Ark.

“We want to train employees and give them every opportunity to grow,” Dostal said, adding that his company offers benefits including health insurance and 401K plans.

“We’re going to put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “I am going to stand up here today and say ’I want to help you.’”

Phil Berkenbile, director of the Department of Career and Technology Education, also known as CareerTech, said reaching students with the message that construction jobs are viable and pay good wages is a good place to start.

“This is not just about construction but about all skilled professions,” Berkenbile said.

“We’ve got to be proactive with high school counselors. We need people in front of [students] saying, ’These are careers, not jobs.’”

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