The future depends on construction workers, now more than ever - Albuquerque Journal

The future depends on construction workers, now more than ever

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is now law and will provide an estimated $3.725 billion to New Mexico for highway improvements, bridge replacement and repairs, expanding connections to high-speed internet, improvements in water and wastewater systems, building energy infrastructure and more.

As of right now, we don’t have enough skilled construction workers to build these projects.

New Mexico’s construction employment has decreased steadily over the past decade and is now about 11% below its peak in 2006. From February 2020 to October 2021, our state ranked 38th in the nation in terms of construction employment growth.

Construction firms are struggling to find enough qualified workers as they continue to be impacted by volatility in materials costs, project delays and supply chain disruptions that are part of today’s pandemic reality.

Nationwide, experts are forecasting a one million-person shortage in the construction industry by 2023 and that about 29% of the workforce will retire by 2026.

That is why Associated General Contractors, New Mexico Chapter (AGC NM), and Associated Contractors of New Mexico (ACONM) have launched a campaign called “Let’s Get New Mexico Working” to grow our construction workforce.

Both of our organizations have promoted careers in construction for decades. In 2010, we founded ACE Leadership High School, a free public charter school for grades 9-12. ACE provides hands-on education through daytime and nighttime programs aimed at producing job-ready graduates. More information is available at https://www.aceleadership.org/.

We also offer programs to prepare adults and students for a career in construction. Information is available by calling (505) 842-1462.

As part of this campaign, we are also providing:

• A résumé and job board website – agc-nm.org/resume_job_board.php – where anyone can post their résumé for free, see jobs advertised by members in the southwestern United States and seek out career coaching, assistance with writing a résumé, reference testing and a career learning center.

• Social media – a Facebook page, facebook.com/letsgetNMworking, and an Instagram account, instagram.com/letsgetnmworking/ – that will feature testimonials from a wide variety of New Mexicans in the construction industry.

A career in construction offers many benefits. Young adults can begin work right after high school and receive on-the-job training. Workers displaced by the pandemic can change careers. Construction companies offer full benefits and the opportunity to advance rapidly.

Even entry-level construction jobs pay above minimum wage. For those who want to go to college, a degree in construction management can provide a lucrative, exciting career.

In response to the pandemic, both AGC NM and ACONM have strengthened not only their own programs, but also their support for career technical education (CTE) programs throughout the state.

We need our state Legislature to do the same. The fact is, only one in three jobs requires a college degree, yet the federal government invests one dollar into career technical training for every six dollars it puts into college preparatory programs. More funding to support training for our vital construction workforce is urgently needed.

Now that President Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 into law, we are ready to begin the hard, but necessary, work of rebuilding our state’s infrastructure while we also begin to build rewarding careers for a new generation of construction professionals.

If you, or someone you know, is searching for a career, consider construction. There has never been a better time.

For more information, visit our website at https://www.agc-nm.org or call (505) 842-1462.

Clinton Beall is president/owner of B&D Industries Inc.; James Fields is a superintendent at James Hamilton Construction.

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