Editorial: 08.07.2019

McCarthy Helps Build the Workforce that Builds St. Louis

Group of construction workers looking out over a job site

The cranes, bulldozers and new structures that continue to rise across St. Louis are visible signs of a strong, healthy local economy.

From the dramatic transformation taking place on the Washington University campus, to the world-class St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, to the NGA campus just getting started in north city, the region is in the midst of an exciting economic revival.

But behind this building boom is a stark reality: St. Louis — like many communities — faces a growing shortage of skilled construction workers.

As more skilled tradesmen near retirement, industry leaders recognize the urgency of building a new generation of construction talent.

“I’ve experienced numerous economic cycles during my 20+-year construction career, but the latest labor shortage is one that we must take seriously — and address at every phase of workforce development,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president, operations at McCarthy.

In a 2018 survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America, 78 percent of construction firms report having a difficult time finding qualified workers to hire. And 82 percent of them expect this challenging scenario to continue.

“Our businesses can only be as successful as the talent we attract,” said Kathy Osborn, president and CEO of the Regional Business Council, a consortium of executives representing 100 of the region's largest employers. “McCarthy and other local companies are putting their time and resources behind unique partnerships to develop the skilled workforce pipeline that not only benefits them, but the entire region.”

Building the next generation of construction workers begins with reaching out to elementary, middle-school and high-school students to introduce them to potential construction careers.

“We need to expose young students to the many facets of the construction trades — from electrical and plumbing work to carpentry and general construction,” said Boyer. “Construction is a gratifying career where you can earn an excellent living while bringing real value to the community. There is nothing better than driving by a project and knowing you had a hand in building it.”

Because hands-on training is vital to building a construction career, McCarthy offers a trades internship program that enables individuals with little or no construction experience to work side-by-side with experienced tradesmen. Successful candidates have the opportunity to become a union apprentice, begin apprentice training and launch a career in the construction trades. And the company’s carpenter apprentice internship embeds university students on a working commercial construction crew alongside tenured carpenter journeymen, apprentices and foremen.

To introduce construction careers to more young men and women, McCarthy is a sponsor of STL.Works, a new initiative focused on increasing the pipeline of candidates into high-demand, skilled jobs in construction trades as well as in healthcare, tech and manufacturing.

“We’re grateful to the Regional Business Council and to the other civic and industry collaborators whose visionary leadership is bringing STL.Works to life so we can build the talent pipeline that will build the future of St. Louis,” said McCarthy President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Wittkop.

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