The construction industry is facing a serious shortage of skilled craft labor. As a self-perform contractor, we use our own field forces to execute a large portion of our construction projects, heightening the importance of a strong workforce. We are working to address the labor shortage and recruit and train the next generation of workers in the construction industry through a variety of efforts, with an emphasis on apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeship programs benefit both employees and employers. When an employee receives hands-on training from industry professionals along with related classroom or online instruction, the employee’s skill level increases, helping fill critical gaps for employers and offering employees opportunities for advancement. Apprenticeship programs also foster relationships between new employees and seasoned professionals, often resulting in valuable mentorships that last a lifetime.
Industrial Carpentry Training Program
Brasfield & Gorrie’s Industrial Carpenter Training Program provides employees with an opportunity to hone their craft by taking their carpentry skills to the next level. Accredited by the NCCER and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, the program utilizes the NCCERconnect platform, a distance learning tool, for the knowledge learning in the curriculum, while the hands-on training component of the curriculum is done on site and overseen by the participant’s foreman.
The curriculum takes around a year to complete and consists of four levels. Participants receive an hourly raise for each successful level of completion, for passing the final exam, and for certification as an Industrial Carpenter. In addition to financial incentives, the program equips employees with essential knowledge and experience in a trade that is in high demand across the construction industry.
General Superintendent Bo Bickerstaff, a 15-year employee, participated in the Industrial Carpenter Training Program early in his career while he was working as a carpenter on the Georgia Aquarium project.
“The carpentry program introduced me to a wider variety of trades than I would have seen otherwise,” said Bickerstaff. “The program reinforced principles I was learning in the field by giving them a broader context, and it prepared me for situations I hadn’t yet encountered in the field through training simulations.”
Basic Field Engineering Class
Another program we offer to equip individuals with specialized trade skills is our Basic Field Engineer Class. Ongoing for more than 25 years, the program gives rodmen a foundation of knowledge in building layout so they can advance to the position of field engineers. The curriculum focuses on construction math, plan reading, and best practices for the field engineering trade. Participants attend four one-week sessions over the course of a year.
“The class made me realize that field engineering is what I want to do,” said Colby Gibbs, a 2017 graduate of the program and four-year employee.
Gibbs said the skills he learned in the Basic Field Engineering Class have helped him excel on the job and will help him further his career.
“I learned numerous things I didn’t know before, and I’m thankful for the time and knowledge invested in me. The skills I learned have impressed my superintendent and other field engineers. Traversing, for example, and some radius layout techniques, have come in handy on the job,” said Gibbs.
External Training Programs
In addition to in-house apprenticeship programs, Brasfield & Gorrie partners with a variety of external training programs to help attract and train skilled craft workers to fill critical gaps and lay a foundation for a strong future workforce.
We enjoy a strong partnership with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama’s Academy of Craft Training, which recruits, educates, and guides high school students for educational and employment opportunities in the construction industry. In the spring, we participated in the program’s industry signing day, offering hats, handshakes, and job offers to eight graduates of the program. Six of the graduates are still employed with Brasfield & Gorrie and are poised for bright futures ahead.
One of the recent hires, Carson McKinney, graduated from the Academy with a specialty in welding. Working as a rodman, he is participating in our Basic Field Engineering Class with the ambition of becoming a field engineer.
“The Academy gave me the skills I needed to get hired and advance to the position I’m in now,” said McKinney.
Another recent hire, Aidan Otero, also graduated from the Academy with a specialty in welding. Working as a laborer, he is receiving in-house training to be a qualified rigger and signal person with the ambition of becoming a foreman.
“The skills I learned from the Academy have helped me keep my job, get a raise, and stay safe on the jobsite,” said Otero.
In Greenville, South Carolina, we sponsor LaunchGVL, a program that connects high school students with paid work opportunities in various high-demand industries such as advanced manufacturing, construction, and healthcare. Several high school students participating in LaunchGVL are currently working for Brasfield & Gorrie in the Greenville area and receiving vocational training in conjunction with their assignments.
In addition to apprenticeship programs, Brasfield & Gorrie sponsors the ACE Mentor Program of America, a national program that connects more than 8,000 high school students with mentors in the design and construction industries annually and supports the students’ continued advancement in those fields.
We also partner with various trade training organizations, such as the Construction Education Foundation of Alabama and the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, as well as many high school trade training programs, such as Huffman High School’s Construction Academy in Birmingham, Alabama, to promote workforce development.
Through our in-house apprenticeship programs and support of external programs, we are equipping individuals with valuable skills to advance their careers and support their families while addressing a critical need for our company and industry. We will continue our commitment to attracting and training a strong workforce and continue spreading the word: the construction industry is a great place to work, with ample opportunities for employment, training, and advancement.