Let’s Help Close The Skills Gap

Michael Sutter, MCAA Chairman

I know in my last article I talked almost exclusively about our MCAA Midyear meeting in Steamboat Springs, CO beginning on August 28th but I need to remind everyone of a few more things. First of all, this is probably the most important meeting we have all year. This is when we set our committee goals for the coming year and thus the direction the MCAA will go in. Members can come to the meetings and express their opinions on the direction they think we should be heading and how we should be getting there. We welcome every member’s opinion and you don’t need to be a committee chairman or even a committee member to express your opinions, just being a member is enough so please join us.

Secondly, if you haven’t registered or reserved a room yet and you would still like to attend, there may still be an opportunity to do that. You’ll need to call the MCAA office and a staff member would be more than happy to help you with the process. I hope to be able to greet and spend time with as many members as possible while we are there. Meeting members and spending some time with them is one of my favorite things to do at the Midyear meeting because it isn’t such a busy time like our annual meeting in Las Vegas. It is a much more relaxed atmosphere with plenty of time to network with other members.

We all realize the importance of workforce development. We are experiencing an extreme shortage of workforce across the country, both union and open shop. We are doing everything we can to recruit high school students to join our industry. If you have heard or read Mike Rowe, from TV’s Dirty Jobs, you know what he is talking about when he talks about the skills gap. Mike is a very good communicator and talks to anyone that will listen to him about this topic. Businesses need to replace an aging workforce yet the kids coming out of our high schools do not have the skills that business owners are looking for. There are millions of jobs available and the vast majority of them do not require a college degree. The kids that are not going to college are the ones we are looking for to reinforce our workforce. In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey is promoting the hiring of people that have recently been released from the Department of Corrections. Many of these people have learned the skills we are looking for while incarcerated. I have gone to a couple of career days they hold and interviewed quite a few potential employees. I have recently hired a couple of them and they are working out great. Both have expressed an interest in joining our apprenticeship program in January. I also have another man that was released from DOC three years ago and he is graduating our apprenticeship program in January. This is a success story that I hope we can repeat. These people made a mistake, many of them early in their adulthood and deserve a second chance, let’s give it to them.

Congressman Mark Pocan from Wisconsin, recently introduced legislation that supports and promotes apprenticeship programs that he calls the LEARNS act. This program could increase the number of skilled workers and close the skills gap that currently exists. We hope to be able to work with Rep. Pocan and other members of the Committee on Education and Workforce to make this bill even better. We would like to see block grants given to the States to prepare Middle School students with introductory courses in the building trades and High School students to receive trade specific instruction that could be a major portion of their classroom instruction required in their apprenticeship program. These students would truly be “Career Ready” when they graduate High School and employers would be lining up to hire them. That is what Mike Rowe is talking about when he says we need to close the skills gap. We will urge congress to partner with private industry to develop these programs as we are the ones that know the skills we need from these young folks graduating High School and we are the ones that will be employing them.