Local construction executives agree that the $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that President Trump unveiled in his State of the Union address is doable and would be a major boost to the U.S. economy, but they agree there is one major problem, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Where are we going to find enough construction workers?
Randall Jay, Field Operations Manager with San Antonio's Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, which builds many of the sorts of public construction projects that would be part of the plan, says the construction industry is already closely working with high schools, community colleges, and other vocational programs to turn out young tradesmen and tradeswomen just as quickly as possible.
"You can make a good living if you pick up a trade, electrical, plumbing, welding, and carpentry," is the message Jay and his colleagues are putting out in talks with student groups.
In Texas, where the economy is strong and more people are moving to the state and are in need of homes, there is already a shortage of construction workers. That shortage has been made more acute by the demands of rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, which has left a lot of residential construction projects in San Antonio unfinished.
"Anything we can do at Bartlett Cocke by helping these trade organizations bring these students to us, we are glad to help."
Jay says construction executives are very closely involved with with Construction Careers Academy in the Northside ISD, as well as similar programs in other ISDs, the Alamo Colleges, and Texas A&M to train young people in the construction trades. He says there are even 'booster clubs' for students in construction trades classes.
"We help them out with materials, and any resources they can to make sure we are getting skilled workers coming out of these high schools."
He says he hopes Texas educators are changing from their 'college only model of the past decade, where high schools were given credit in their accountability ratings for the percentage of its graduates who go on to traditional college. He says today, the opportunities are more and more in the skilled trades, including construction. And besides, you don't start out in life saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
As far as President Trump's infrastructure proposals, he says if the country wants it done, Jay says his industry will do it.
"As Americans we always find a way to do it," he said. "If it takes to get these projects built that we have to teach these kids and develop these skilled workers, and if we have to teach classes after we hire them, we will be do it. It will be done."