HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- State and national construction industry leaders toured a Henrico County school Wednesday to highlight the work it is doing to address what they say is a nationwide industry issue: a worker shortage.
"Nationally, there were 385,000 open positions at the end of July," said Ken Simonson, Chief Economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) as he revealed the results of his association's yearly survey of its members. "The results of this year's workforce survey highlights significant shortcomings in the nation's approach to preparing workers for careers in construction. 96% of Virginia firms report that they have open positions they are trying to fill higher than the national average. Which is an already starting any high of 88%."
Simonson said one of the reasons is that most job candidates that apply do not have the qualifications to be hired. He said AGC is pushing federal lawmakers to invest more money into career and technical education, expand Pell Grants to students in those fields, and change immigration laws to allow more people with the skills needed in construction to enter the country lawfully.
"The bottom line is we need to do a better job as a nation preparing future workers for the many high paying career opportunities that exist in this and many other industries. Henrico County Public Schools are showing how that can be done," added Simonson.
He and other AGC members toured The Advanced Career Education, or ACE, Center at Highland Springs, one of three technical schools in the county and one of two (the other being Hermitage) undergoing an expansion to double the program's capacity as part of a $54-million investment.
"For years, we've turned away so many students through the years, because we just didn't have a place for them," said BJ Crowder, Assistant Director of Workforce and Career Development at Henrico County Public Schools, who said the current programs at the three schools between 1,500-2,000 students.
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