According to the latest jobs report, the unemployment rate in the United States was 3.7%, while in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it was 2.6%. The extremely tight job market makes it challenging for companies to find employees—skilled and unskilled. In the construction industry, hiring to fill laborer positions at the entry-level as well as identifying experienced tradespeople to replace a retiring workforce is a constant struggle for organizations.
As the industry enters a new decade, several big questions confront companies. 1) Who is the new target workforce? 2) Do we invest in internal employees or seek trained individuals? 3) What do we have to do differently to survive the labor shortage? In Virginia, VAA has partnered with Germanna Community College (GCC) to educate and train a new workforce. In December, GCC graduated their first student with an Associates Degree in Asphalt Technology (see related article). In time, VAA and GCC will work to expand the opportunities for apprenticeships and degrees through the Asphalt Academy. In other states such as South Carolina, SCAPA (South Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association) has funded Asphalt Works (www.asphaltworkssc.com) to promote the asphalt industry and related careers. Nationally, current NAPA Chairman John Harper made workforce development his 2019 platform. Under his leadership, NAPA and others have partnered to form the Promise Committee to promote careers in the asphalt industry.
During 2020, VAA will devote time at meetings and in publications to promote workforce development. VAA will be working with Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry to increase knowledge for employers looking to hire their next workforce. Efforts to expand the Asphalt Academy will be pursued with GCC. At the VAA Annual Meeting in late April, Keynote Speaker Karen McCullough will talk about the different generations in the workforce and strategies for hiring Millennials and Generation Z. These and many other efforts are designed to help members identify and retain new employees in this new decade.