New Coalition Set Up to Encourage Construction Employment

A new non-profit organization, the Virginia Workforce Development Construction Coalition, plans to be operational by mid-June. It is being created as a way to address the severe shortage of skilled construction workers in part of the state, and its mission is to bring businesses and educational institutions together to introduce students and job seekers to careers in the construction industry.

One of the coalition's efforts will focus on helping to shift the perception of career paths for students graduating from high school. The educational outreach will attempt to show graduates that there are a significant number of well-paying, professional and secure jobs that require no more than a two-year degree or a certification, and that not all careers need to involve a four-year college degree.

While the coalition will focus on all construction trades, particular attention will be paid to welding, plumbing and electrical, where the shortage of skilled workers is particularly strong.

The coalition is composed of a number of organizations, including the Hampton Roads Utility & Heavy Contractors Association (whose members are involved in underground utility projects, commercial and residential site development, and transportation infrastructure), the Tidewater Builders Association, Tidewater Community College and Opportunity Inc.

According to a spokesperson for Opportunity Inc., an organization that is set up to develop and administer workforce development initiatives, demand for construction workers has been growing since the recovery from the 2008 recession.

Opportunity Inc. is part of the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, which is responsible for developing workforce policy and administering workforce development initiatives in Virginia's Workforce Investment Area 18, which includes Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. The company oversees federally funded workforce development programs, which assist businesses in accessing qualified workers and jobseekers by matching them with suitable job openings and bolstering their earning power through training.

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