Local trade industries suffer since pandemic, work to recruit younger population

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(ABC 6 News) – The worker shortage is having a major impact on our local economy. It reached almost every industry, including construction. Events in Rochester on Wednesday spread awareness about trade worker job openings and connected interested young people with resources to get them hired. Their main idea was trade work isn’t just a job. It’s a career.

"It’s not just a job it’s a career choice. Construction is more than heavy labor," said Jorrie Johnson, a project manager with the City of Rochester.

The average age of trade workers gets older each year. Add to that the recent recession and retirement wave, and like many other industries construction is in crisis.

"We were seeing some of these issues before COVID even happened," said Rick Myhre, the chair of Construct Tomorrow.

Trade businesses are focusing on outreach to students still in high school or college.

"Giving them a taste and feel of all the different trades and get them to think about that like they would college or the military or other careers," Myhre said.

There’s also a push for women and people of color to join construction – some noting that marginalized groups historically haven’t had much access to apprenticeships or contract work. Trade leaders are emphasizing that construction work is for everyone.

"If you’re interested in construction there’s a place for you," Susan Boehm, a regional coordinator with Workforce Development Inc., said.

This year the city wants about 7% of construction workers to be women. Right now about 3.5% of construction workers in Rochester are women.

"You can’t tell by looking at a person because of their gender or the color of their skin what skill sets they bring to the table," Boehm said.

Trade workers can either enter an apprenticeship through a union or sign up directly with contractors. Unions guarantee benefits and balanced wages, while many contractors offer the same. The pay is competitive. Some starting wages are close to $30 an hour – hopefully incentivizing people to get back to work and rebuild trade industries.

People interested in joining construction can reach out to Workforce Development Incorporated.