As we move towards the end of 2023, the holidays offer us a moment to reflect on the past as we prepare for the future. Opportunities driven by rapidly occurring innovation and technological progress is accelerating the need for a skilled and agile workforce more than ever. To meet this demand and to seize the opportunity to fully capture the benefits of this transformative period, business and labor must forge an unprecedented partnership. The partnership must have the active support of our community educators, our government and regional associations to build a diverse and sustainable workforce that can construct the projects envisioned by two recent, important Federal funding laws.
Our industry needs to take this opportunity to rethink and launch a properly resourced workforce development project that has market driven targeted training programs. Older workers in the skilled trades are retiring and not enough young people are being recruited and trained for careers as construction workers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and beyond. We must fix this and seize the moment to broaden and strengthen a diverse middle class that will keep pace with the federal funding programs that are rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. By investing in our infrastructure, we can build sustainable careers, and an enduring economic livelihood on Long Island.
Some of these federal funds are intended to encourage the development of clean, renewable energy projects thus further increasing the need for skilled labor. As a result, at least two Long Island based offshore wind worker training initiatives have been launched, and the skills and experience acquired will provide long lasting benefits to all.
Despite recent news coverage of the economic challenges that some developers are facing, we should not prematurely assume that offshore wind is not in our immediate energy future. Instead, we must take, in a timely manner, all prudent available steps to mitigate the challenges that projects face.
In the short term, we must support and complete those shovel active jobs, such as Sunrise Wind. It not only delivers clean and much needed inflation-proof electricity, but also enables Long Island to capture all the economic benefits that a major exporter of energy enjoys. We cannot allow the progress that we have made to be wasted.
By embracing a collaborative approach, business, labor, educational and governmental organizations will work together to develop and execute effective strategies to recruit and train the next generation of skilled trade workers. For example, Haugland Group and the Building and Construction Trades Council, who have had a productive relationship for decades, are partnering to raise awareness and attract a new generation of workers to participate in the opportunities offered by the trades.
Together, we are engaging with the community to build awareness among students, teachers and parents. We are supporting and increasing access to union pre-apprenticeships. And, we hope to be collaborating with our regional association, the LIA (Long Island Association), to create a unified, coordinated approach that will secure the funds needed to build and implement an effective workforce development program for this region. A truly successful program will not only provide targeted skills training, but the work experience needed to hone these skills. The ultimate success should be defined by the number of skilled tradesmen placed in sustainable careers that are building the needed infrastructure projects on time.
However, even our best-laid plans will not meet their full potential without effective leadership, strong participation of the community and a strategy aligned with shared success. Leaders from all areas must rise to the challenge and enthusiastically join forces to embrace this effort, to rebuild and broaden our middle class while transforming our nation’s infrastructure to create a cleaner, more efficient, more prosperous economic future.
This is the time - this is our moment. How we act now will shape the future of Long Island and New York for generations to come. By making this shared commitment to workforce development, we can demonstrate that a rising tide can truly raise all boats.
Billy Haugland II, CEO, Haugland Group
Matthew Aracich, President of the Building and Construction Trade Council of Nassau and Suffolk County
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