Redeveloping an Indiana Workforce

Indiana Workforce Development

Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune published a story that shocked many Americans who were concerned about unemployment but most companies in the Midwest were all too familiar with, “… the problem isn’t China. It’s too many jobs.” At a time when national political conversation was pointing the finger at jobs being shipped overseas to countries like China, where labor is cheaper, the Tribune highlighted a reality we’re all too familiar with at Custom Concrete.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 5.6 million job openings across the country in 2016. Most of these opportunities don’t require a diploma, they require a skill. This presents companies like Custom Concrete, our partners, and the communities around us with a tremendous opportunity to encourage, train, and develop a new generation of laborers.

Like many organizations today, most of our most experienced workers are nearing retirement age. Our senior laborers and management team consist of many baby boomers and we know it’s only a matter of time before they begin to make plans for the next phase of their lives. After all, they’ve worked hard for decades and deserve to reap the benefits of their labor. But who will replace them? By one estimate, for every skilled worker entering the workforce today, there are five who retire.

That’s why we’re spending time at area high schools, presenting opportunities to our young people who are trying to figure out what’s next. We show them the work our teams do, day in and day out, and the pride and satisfaction in a job well done—success built with two hands. And we’re finding them. We’re finding our future right here in Central Indiana but it takes time to identify the right people, educate them on what’s available once they graduate, and change their misconceptions of skilled laborers (who they are and what they really do). And, unfortunately, we are running short on time.

Many young people today see skilled labor careers as “back-breaking work”. A 2017 survey of career-minded young people found only three percent were interested in a construction trade. And 70 percent of graduating high school seniors choose to continue their education at a two- or four-year college, many times incurring an average of $37,000 in student loans instead of participating in an apprenticeship or fellowship to learn a skilled trade that could pay upwards of $60,000 a year.

The issue at hand is not a lack of jobs. There are plenty of jobs! The problem is, there’s not enough people to fill them. And the young workers who are looking for experience to learn a skilled labor or trade are under more pressure than ever before to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree instead of working full-time straight out of high school. Our hope is our involvement with area high schools and the creation of opportunities with partners throughout Central Indiana will help us identify this new generation of skilled laborers.

To meet one of these young workers who followed his dream of working with heavy equipment, read our recent blog post by Jeff Wheeler.