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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

Louisiana High School Students Explore Lucrative Opportunities in Construction Industry

In a bid to address a growing demand for skilled workers in Louisiana's construction and industrial sectors, hundreds of high school students gathered for "Build Your Future Day." This recruitment event, hosted by the Associated Builders and Contractors' Pelican chapter in Baton Rouge and its New Orleans/Bayou chapter, showcased the career opportunities in the construction industry and aimed to inspire the next generation of workers.

The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center served as the venue for this event, where students had the chance to interact with numerous Louisiana industrial companies. Industry giants such as Turner Industries, Performance Contractors, and MMR Group were among the exhibitors. They brought impressive displays, virtual simulators, and a warm welcome to convey to the students the potential for long and prosperous careers as welders, pipefitters, or millwrights.

Chad Pierce, a training and workforce development specialist for Cajun Industries, described the event as a "giant construction show and tell," providing students with a firsthand look at the industry and dispelling any preconceived notions they might have had about construction careers. This hands-on approach aimed to spark interest and enthusiasm among the young attendees.

The urgency for attracting new talent to the construction and industrial sectors is evident. Economist Loren Scott's recent report highlighted $154 billion worth of industrial projects in the pipeline for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles, with many slated for construction as soon as next year. The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance conducted a survey indicating a need for up to 5,400 additional industry workers in the region over the next two years, with specific demand for electricians, instrument technicians, millwrights, and pipefitters.

For example, Turner Industries, already employing 10,000 people, plans to hire an additional 3,000 workers to meet the growing demand. Performance Contractors has added 2,000 employees in the past year, and other companies like ISC, MMR Group, and Cajun Industries are set to expand their workforces to keep pace with industry growth.

The challenge lies in not just recruiting new workers but doing so swiftly. Connie Fabre, President and CEO of GBRIA, acknowledged the industry's pressing need for skilled craft workers, especially given the ongoing demographic shift due to retirements and the increasing demand for industrial projects.

Despite experiencing workforce shortages in the past, industry leaders are now working collaboratively with state agencies, educational institutions, and businesses to address the current workforce development challenges. The goal is to develop more skilled craft workers who can contribute to the industry's growth and success.

David Helveston, President and CEO of ABC's Pelican chapter, mentioned two key approaches to tackle the workforce issue. The first involves "upskilling," where entry-level workers receive additional training to expand their skill sets, making them more versatile for job placements. The second approach is to partner with local high schools to encourage students to pursue careers in the industry.

Industrial contractors and industry organizations have taken steps to strengthen Louisiana's workforce development ecosystem, investing in community and technical colleges and creating new worker training facilities. These initiatives are aimed at enhancing the workforce pipeline and ensuring a steady supply of skilled workers.

The good news is that about 2,500 construction workers who were impacted by COVID-related layoffs are available for industrial contractors to hire. Industrial projects often have lengthy timelines, providing some flexibility in responding to workforce needs.

Nonetheless, competition for talent remains fierce, which may lead to higher construction wages. If new projects commence soon, industrial contractors may need to bring in out-of-state workers to meet the demand.

To attract students to industry careers, recruiters are employing creative methods, including the use of social media platforms such as TikTok. These efforts are aimed at showcasing the safety and attractive compensation that industry careers can offer, providing students with valuable alternatives to traditional four-year college routes.

The industry recognizes the importance of reaching students through platforms that resonate with them, such as TikTok and other social media outlets. The focus is on communicating the benefits of a career in construction and industry and dispelling misconceptions that may deter students from pursuing these lucrative opportunities.

In the face of the workforce shortage challenge, Louisiana's construction and industrial sectors are actively engaging with the next generation of workers, embracing innovative approaches to bridge the gap and ensure a prosperous future for the industry.

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