Industry embraces workforce development

Ready mixed and manufactured-concrete producers have enjoyed gradually improving business for much of the past five years. Like employers throughout the economy, many have encountered a tightening labor market, culminating with 2018 unemployment levels approaching 20-year lows and industry-wide prioritizing of recruiting and retaining production and delivery talent.

Workforce development prevailed in education sessions and strategic plan review timed with first quarter gatherings of the American Concrete Pipe Association, Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.

NRMCA has taken perhaps the boldest move, merging functions of legacy Business Administration, Educational Activities and Operations, Environment & Safety Committees into the Workforce Development Committee. It officially launches this month with an organizational meeting in Oklahoma City. Association members and staff will set the direction and format of committee work with an eye to “improving industry recruitment and retention.” Initial actions could see the formation of Workforce Development task groups addressing:

  • Ready mixed concrete–Commercial driver’s license instruction/tech school partnerships/vocational skilled trades/veteran outplacement services;
  • Developing Industry Leaders program/college recruitment/long-term career planning to retain and grow middle management;
  • Federal legislative, regulatory affairs and advocacy tied to the labor market;
  • Survey/data collection and analysis (informing NRMCA’s Annual Compensation and Mixer Driver Recruitment & Retention surveys).

“We see a pressing need among members to recruit and retain drivers and other individuals who make ready mixed concrete businesses run,” 2018 NRMCA Chairman Rodney Grogan (MMC Materials, Mississippi) told Concrete Products last month (“A Certain Chairman,” pages 42-48). “If we don’t have the workforce, our success is in doubt.”

“Recruiting and retaining workers is one of our members’ biggest concerns,” notes 2018 PCI Chairman Mason Lampton (Standard Concrete Products, Georgia) this month in “Standard Bearer” (pages 38-41). “We are creating training materials to develop their staff and production teams, whereas past PCI educational efforts were geared primarily to architects, engineers, agencies and owners. Workforce development support is a new value in a PCI membership.”

A strategic plan Lampton and fellow PCI directors are reviewing for potential adoption by mid year cites workforce development as a key target. More immediately, the Institute demonstrated for members that it is thinking beyond customary design and engineering fare by adding two timely sessions to this year’s annual convention education program: “Attracting and Training Tomorrow’s Workforce” and “Manufacturing Engagement: A Plan for Retaining Good Talent.” A productive partnership PCI has fostered with the National Precast Concrete Association—manifested in the annual trade exhibit, The Precast Show—will afford precast/prestressed producers the additional perspective of NPCA’s proven workforce development strategies.

With a more limited range of plant equipment and end-user customers than peers across concrete production, the American Concrete Pipe Association maintains a premier workforce development vehicle in its annual Pipe School. This month, newly elected ACPA Chairman Mark Omelaniec (Langley Concrete Group, British Columbia), discusses the record participation and youth factor in the 2018 Pipe School (note “Resilient Rings,” pages 42-45). The four-day event was appropriately staged at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro—home to the charter Concrete Industry Management degree program.

Contributing to the workforce development flourish is LafargeHolcim, which has penned an agreement with the U.S. Army through the Partnership for Youth Success program (page 37). LafargeHolcim’s Denise Devereaux sums the rationale for a partnership involving domestic namesake and Aggregate Industries operations: “A workforce recruiting pathway focused on military veterans is a natural fit due to the skills and values that align with [our business].” Those skills and values, “teamwork, performance, accountability and a focus on health and safety,” are a winning template for an industry competing for human capital.