Category Archives: Education

Workforce Training Pays Big Dividends

With more than 17 percent of the craft workers retiring in the next five years it is more important than ever to train tomorrow’s construction workers. The construction industry is falling short of its workforce demand by almost 1.6 million positions by 2022, based on the latest estimates by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

In December 2004, economic think tank The Brookings Institute released a study titled Toward a New Metropolis: The Opportunity to Rebuild America. The study noted that “Residential and commercial development in the next 25 years will eclipse anything seen in previous generations,” and that “Nearly half of what will be the built environment in 2030 doesn’t exist yet.”

Still the lack of a skilled workforce continues to be a challenge for contractors and owners alike. The 2016 Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chairman and president of Willmar Electric Service, David Chapin, said that, “ABC members report that they could do more work if they had the skilled workers to do the jobs.”

The problem is multifaceted. Despite much evidence to contradict the outcome, our education system still prepares the vast majority of students for a college education while little is being done to either promote or prepare young people for careers in the construction trades. Simultaneously, for years the industry thought the only valid way to learn was working from the bottom up with training happening only on the job.

However, construction, like most other careers, has become increasingly technical and specialized and training is essential to ensure that we have a highly-skilled workforce for the future.

For employers, investing just one percent in training can deliver double-digit returns.

A recent study by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) found that investing just 1 percent of a project’s labor budget in training could have double-digit returns. The study showed that 1 percent yielded: 11% improved productivity; 14% decrease in turnover; 15% decrease in absenteeism; 26% decrease in injuries; and 23% decrease in rework. These are savings that far exceed the investment in training.

For those interested in joining the trades.

The average 2015 college graduate owes about $35,000 in student loan debt—the highest level in history, according to government data. Despite lower national unemployment figures, many of these four-year graduates have little guarantee of job placement, making for an unstable future.

The average construction industry graduate who completes an associate’s degree or a state-funded, certified two- three- or four-year apprenticeship program, (the average electrician, welder or plumber) stands to earn more than $50,000 a year right out of the gate. He or she has little to no student loan debt, and already holds a high-paying job—plus career skills that are in top demand as the baby boomer generation retires.

In Washington we have a myriad of training programs that support the industry. ABC offers a wide variety of training classes including safety, project management and in conjunction with Toastmasters, public speaking and presentation. For training in the trades, ABC’s partner, the Construction Industry Training Council of Washington (CITC), offers state-approved apprenticeship and craft training in the carpentry, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, heavy equipment operator, painting, plumbing, laborers, residential electrical, low energy and sheet metal trades. For more information go to:

Nationally there are a number of resources as well:

The first National Craft Championships was held in 1987 with only a handful of participants competing in four craft competitions. Some 25 years later, more than 2,000 men and women have competed in what has grown to become one of the construction industry’s most recognized and revered craft skills events, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our member firms and ABC chapters. The ABC Workforce Conference site is

For those considering construction careers: ABC’s Careers in Construction –





Washington students shine at CM competition


This UW team won first place in the Mixed Use category.


The University of Washington won three awards and Washington State University won one at the recently held regional Associated Schools of Construction student competition in Nevada.

The event is the largest construction management competition in the country, with more than 1,300 students from 44 universities and 17 states participating, according to a WSU news release.

Both schools competed in Region 7, which includes schools from Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

UW won first place in the Region 7 Mixed Use category, and WSU was third in the Commercial category. UW also won two third place awards in the Open competition, in the Integrated Project and Sustainable Building/LEED categories.

Way to go kids!


WSU’s winning team in the Commercial category.





L&I doing the home show circuit

The Department of Labor & Industries will have a booth at 18 home shows this winter/spring throughout the state to inform homeowners about hiring the right construction contractors.

L&I says home show attendees in search of a contractor should arrive with a plan that includes:

• Know what you want. Whether planning to update your bathroom or build a fence, write a list of the features you must have versus the features you’d like to have. Bring magazine pictures of desired features.
• Talk to a variety of vendors and contractors. Bring a list of questions about your project and ask contractors about their experience.
• Confirm prospective contractors are registered with the state at Registered contractors must have a business license and a current certificate of liability insurance and a bond on file with L&I, providing some recourse if the project goes bad. Just because contractors have a booth doesn’t mean they’re registered.

The first event, the Tacoma Home & Garden Show, is running until Sunday inside the Tacoma Dome. Admission is $12.

Contractors finally embrace high-tech

The old adage is that contractors are slow to adapt to new technology. That may have held true in the past, but go to any job site now and you’re likely to see iPads and other mobile devices hard at work.

Just how these devices speed productivity is the subject of two articles in the DJC’s Construction & Equipment special section. In one article, Skanska discusses how it’s moving toward a paperless job site. In the second, Howard S. Wright profiles its high-tech “Big Room” that is outfitted with various high-tech devices to streamline collaboration and communication between all of the project team members.

Even with all those high-tech gizmos in the Big Room, HSW still designed in a glass wall for posting sticky notes.

Skanska helps with ASC competition


A team led by local Skanska employees pitched in again this year in the Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition in Nevada.

The employees developed a problem statement on sustainable building and LEED that 11 student teams answered with written proposals and oral presentations.

The winning teams and their prize money were: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (first place, $1,500); California State University, Fresno (second place, $1,000); and the University of Washington (third place, $500). Arizona State University won $500 for best presentation.

Skanska’s group consists of 12 employees from Washington, Oregon and California. It collaborates from October to February to develop a problem statement. This is the eighth year the employees have helped out.

Pictured on the UW student team are: (back row, left to right) Matt Watson, Kevin Marck, Eddie Baker and professor John Schaufelberger; (front row) Melody Lian, Michael Abbate and Ben Leventer.

Skanska holding world’s largest workplace safety initiative

Skanska is in the midst of its eighth annual Safety Week, which it bills as the world’s largest workplace safety initiative. That means all of Skanska’s 53,000 employees around the world, including its 9,400 U.S. employees, are putting an extra focus on workplace safety and wellness. Subcontractors, suppliers and business partners are also included.

The program has thousands of activities held at Skanska jobsites and offices that educate employees on how to better avoid workplace risks and evade injuries. Examples are rescue techniques and fire training, flex routines, health and first-aid training, and ladder safety.
Speaking of ladder safety, Skanska is hosting a ladder safety presentation at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday at its UW Medical Center jobsite. Doug Wing from Little Giant Ladders will give a demonstration.

Skanska has developed some best practices for ladder safety:
• Always inspect the ladder prior to use.
• Choose the right ladder for the job based on if you are working at low, medium or high heights.
• Move slowly and deliberately while on a ladder. Over-reaching or leaning can lead to a loss of balance.
• Most importantly, always maintain three points of contact while ascending and descending a ladder. The user should keep either two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand on the ladder at all times.

Over the past six years, Skanska’s lost-time accident rate for employees has been reduced by 50 percent. By 2015, the company aims to eliminate three out of four lost-time accidents.

More information on Safety Week 2012 can be found at It runs until Sunday.

Helmets to Hardhats Links Vets with Construction

Today’s DJC includes a fine article by Sam Bennett regarding the construction industry’s concerns regarding a recent Department of Labor proposal that contractors who do federal work follow a new system for hiring disabled workers and veterans.  That article is here.

As a follow up, I want to make sure everyone is aware of Helmets to Hardhats, a national, web-based program that connects National Guard, Reserve and transitioning active-duty military members with quality career training and employment opportunities within the construction trades. The program, created a decade ago, is administered by the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans Employment, a non-profit 501(c)(3) joint labor-management committee.

Employers are required to participate in “proven apprenticeship training programs that are registered and approved by applicable federal and state authorities.” However, it is not limited to union training programs and employers.

The Construction Industry Training Council (CITC) of Washington, which is an approved H2H training program that AGC of Washington, ABC and others sponsor, runs an open-shop registered apprenticeship program with more than 400 apprentices in several craft programs.

According to its website, “H2H encourages all responsible employers who have construction-related career opportunities to apply for acceptance into our program.” Employers must meet certain criteria including: “access to a quality and federally-recognized registered apprentice program, a permanent system to ensure employment and training opportunities, formal curriculum and instructor training programs, related training and an on-the-job training program, an affirmative action program, and a positive record of caring for the welfare of workers as evidenced by health insurance, pension benefits and workers’ compensation coverage.”

Helmets to Hardhats was created because the industry knows that the nation’s veterans can serve as a good pool of potential construction craftworkers, but also understands that making the connections with the nation’s veterans as they leave service can be difficult.