College seeks to affect workforce shortage

Partners with construction industry

Yavapai College Vice President of Academics and Student Development Dr. Ron Liss addresses building industry representatives at a meeting to address workforce shortages. (Jennifer McCormack, Yavapai College/Courtesy)

Yavapai College Vice President of Academics and Student Development Dr. Ron Liss addresses building industry representatives at a meeting to address workforce shortages. (Jennifer McCormack, Yavapai College/Courtesy)

More than 50 building industry representatives so far have answered Yavapai College’s call for help crafting a plan to develop and retain a strong workforce to meet long-term industry needs.

During a guided discussion Tuesday at the YC Prescott campus, industry representatives shared ideas and potential strategies for attracting workers to the construction trades and encouraging them to stay.

College leaders organized the meeting in response to community concerns about the workforce shortage in the building trades and, in keeping with the college’s mission, to be a strong partner in regional economic development initiatives.

“The need is real,” said Tom Reilly of T.F. Reilly Builders, Inc., of the dearth of labor in the construction trades locally. He told fellow industry professionals at Tuesday’s meeting that any strategy that is developed needs to address the historical “feast or famine” cycles of the industry. “There has to be some way to smooth out the peaks and valleys of our industry so our workforce doesn’t go away.”

The current workforce shortage is attributable to low unemployment and to the recession in the late 2000s that decimated the building industry. Many in the construction trades changed careers out of necessity and never returned. The industry needs those workers back, but is struggling to recruit.

Leah Cickavage, operations manager for the economic workforce development division of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, participated in the building industry discussion and is optimistic that contractors can attract the skilled workers they need given the resources and strategies at their disposal.

On the resource side, Cickavage said NACOG can do a lot — from hosting job fairs to helping pay for on-the-job training, certifications and licensing. For its part, the industry needs to consider marketing, competitive wages, benefits and full-time career paths, among other strategies, Cickavage said. “I would also say to take a look at apprenticeship opportunities and utilize the workforce services that are available to them.”

Many of the building industry representatives at the workforce discussion signaled interest in the college resurrecting a construction training program. “There’s a definite need, based on the group discussion, for some sort of certification program that would be offered through the college,” Cickavage said.

Reilly said industry representatives stand ready to help the college with a training program both as instructors and “behind-the-scenes” support. 

The next step for the college is to gather input from building industry professionals in eastern Yavapai County. After that, a smaller group of college and industry representatives will consider proposals and iron out a comprehensive, long-term workforce development program.

“It certainly seems that together as partners we can pull something together that will help the industry as a whole,” said Dr. Ron Liss, YC’s vice president of Academics and Student Development, as the initial building industry workforce development meeting drew to a close.

Liss will lead eastern Yavapai County building professionals in a workforce development discussion from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, in Building M, Room 137, of the YC Verde Valley Campus, 601 Black Hills Drive, Clarkdale. Building trade representatives who would like to attend the lunch meeting are invited to RSVP by Dec. 11 by contacting Billie Norris, 928-717-7170. Email Billie.Norris@yc.edu.

Information provided by Jennifer McCormack, marketing coordinator at Yavapai College