A prevailing topic at this year’s AGC National Convention in San Antonio has undoubtedly been workforce development and finding much needed workers to fill both hourly and salaried positions of all kinds throughout the construction industry. To properly fill that need, collaboration between contractors and educators is essential.

“There is an intense need for people to come into the construction industry. There’s a wave of people retiring—the wave of people coming after the retirees is not even close to filling the void,” said Justin Reginato with CSU Sacramento during one of several Talent Recruitment and Development education sessions. That includes an incredible need for the full spectrum of careers, from craft labor to project engineers alike, he added.

Focusing in on the PE side, the two traditional routes to finding recruits are either from the field, in craft laborers working their way up through superintendent and project management level, and in students coming up through colleges and universities. However, ensuring that those students receiving their training through higher education are suitably prepared to enter the workforce is essential.

“Most of the people who are in the PE level have graduated from high school. But one of the most important aspects is that the education, particularly in college, isn’t all in the classroom,” Reginato explained.

On the job experience, in the form of internships, for example, helps to ensure that when a fresh hire starts work with a contractor that they’re ready to get to work.

“If you have an acute need for a project engineer and you show up at a university [seeking one], that’s a hard thing to do,” Reginato said. “This is a long process that starts in the college stage.”

But finding new talent even goes back to working with educators themselves at accredited colleges and universities.

“If you are in industry and looking to hire students, also look at hiring faculty because that’s a way to get to students,” Reginato pointed out.

With an internship at a local firm and the opportunity to learn and experience the industry away from the classroom, it’s also a strategy to keep educators up to speed on the latest technologies, strategies and other knowledge sets that are critical for their students once they reach the workplace.

“Invite someone to work for your company if you have an opportunity to work. If you do hire a faculty intern, they should be going there to learn about the industry, but there are some constraints. They’re going to want to wander and ask questions, go to project sites— keep in mind that it’s not a direct conduit to hiring more cheap labor for a summer,” Reginato added.

The earlier in the process a contractor gets involved, the better hire they may end up with as well. Reginato noted that “if you’re looking at universities to fix your [workforce] problems that are acute today, if you get in early, build bridges build relationships with faculty, relationships with sophomores and when those students are ready for a job, you know who they are and they know you. Take your time and build those relationships,” he said.