Business Roundtable, an association of 160 CEOs of large American corporations, is rolling out a broad-based effort to recruit and train up to 20,000 new construction workers in the Gulf Coast region by the end of 2009 to help continue the region’s recovery from last year’s hurricanes.
“The massive challenge of reconstruction in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita offers a major opportunity to build skills and employment in the impacted region, especially among disadvantaged and displaced residents, helping the region retain and develop its residents, and accelerating its economic recovery,” says Riley Bechtel, chairman and CEO of the Bechtel Group.
Bechtel is co-chairman, along with Dupont chairman and CEO Charles O. Holliday, Jr., of The Gulf Coast Workforce Development Initiative spearheaded by the Business Roundtable, whose members have committed up to $5 million for the cause. The program has paired the Business Roundtable with Gulf Coast businesses, construction trade groups, labor unions, community organizations, academic institutions and federal, state, and local government to achieve its goals of boosting construction recruiting and training in the hard-hit region.
“The regional demand for construction labor significantly exceeded supply even before Katrina and Rita,” Bechtel says. “This has obviously been accentuated by the recovery and occurs in the context of a growing national shortage of construction labor. This partnership between government and business will be a powerful catalyst for recovery in the Gulf region, retention and development of the local population, and a model for future disaster recovery.”
In August, the Business Roundtable initiative will launch the Gulf Rebuild: Education, Advancement and Training — or “GREAT” — campaign to promote the program and recruit participants from the region to take part in the training. The GREAT campaign will start with pilot programs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, and expand into other Gulf Coast communities in the future.
Article Continues Below
Participants will enroll in a four-week course that gives them entry-level skills to prepare them for jobs in the construction industry. In the future, the program may offer options for advanced workshops and apprenticeships for students who want to prepare further for advanced construction trades jobs.
Instructors certified by the National Center for Construction Education and Research, a not-for-profit organization created to develop industry-driven standardized curriculum with portable credentials to help address the skilled construction workforce shortage, will lead the training programs.
“This Coast-wide effort will help address our immediate need to rebuild and recover following the hurricanes,” says U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (Republican of Mississippi), “while equipping those left unemployed by Hurricane Katrina with skills that will enable them to build a career in the construction industry.”
Adds U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (Democrat of Louisiana): “While the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi have demonstrated their resilience in the months following last fall’s hurricanes, there’s a great deal of work still ahead, and we need skilled workers to get the job done.”