The Spokane Construction Industry Skill Panel was convened in November 2004 by the Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extending Learning and many other partners in business, labor, and government. Its goal is to ensure the continued growth and viability of the Spokane region’s construction industry. The skill panel is addressing several concerns, among which are:
- The aging local construction workforce, with 20% of the existing workforce expected to retire in the next four years.
- A significant decrease in the numbers of young people who are choosing to enter vocational careers in general, and the construction industry in particular.
- Projections from the US Department of Labor indicating that the construction industry will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, adding one million new jobs by the year 2012.
- Rapid growth of the construction industry in the Spokane region, which currently has many jobs available for a shrinking workforce.
To date the skill panel has:
- Continued to recruit additional panel members, and views recruiting as an ongoing process.
- Developed preliminary strategies including designing a mobile display unit focused on interesting young people in construction careers.
- Convened focus groups of public school students to identify what is necessary to make marketing materials and educational or training displays and events interesting to persons in their age group — in other words, identifying the sorts of materials, displays and events that will engage young people.
- Developed and delivered a special half-day event designed to interest young women in construction careers. Because of this event’s success, more are planned for the future.
- Defined some local and regional factors that are causing the decline in numbers of young people entering the construction workforce. Among them are:
- Parental pressure to “go to college” (i.e., obtain a university education) and not “work with your hands.”
- High School counselors who encourage students to attend college or university, rather than pursue professional-technical (formerly “vocational”) careers.
- A decline in the number of meaningful “vocational” or “shop” courses that are offered in the public schools.
- The stereotypical negative image of the construction trades.