In the next 10 years, more than 15,000 new construction jobs are expected in the region. One-fifth of the region’s construction workforce is at, or nearing, retirement age and the need for construction workers is intensifying.

To help businesses address the growing need for employees, Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) and its partners in the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative (CWWC), recently released the region’s 2021-2023 Construction Workforce Plan.

The plan is the result of months of effort by the CWWC Regional Construction Industry Panel comprised of contractors from throughout the six-county SW Washington-Portland Metro region, trade organizations, labor, workforce boards, training providers, WorkSource staff, educators and other industry-supporting organizations.

In early 2021 the Panel discussed ongoing challenges and began engaging companies in the development of the regional, industry-specific workforce strategy. The Panel identified and prioritized several high-level strategies the public workforce system could deploy to effectively support contractors, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship programs. The draft plan was shared with community stakeholders for comment and to identify areas of alignment and collaboration with existing initiatives.

Creating a regional construction plan allows us to identify common industry workforce challenges, coalesce around shared goals and align the efforts of the public workforce system to make a greater overall impact on the sector.

The plan outlines four priority areas of focus to support the workforce needs of the construction industry:

  1. Connect youth to jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities in construction
  2. Advance equity and diversity in the construction industry
  3. Improve retention of existing apprentices and workers
  4. Connect “career changers” to jobs, training and career opportunities in construction

The region’s current and future building trends are rapidly increasing the demand for skilled tradespeople. Coupled with the anticipated large-scale retirements from the industry and the need to create opportunities and attract women and more diverse candidates to the construction trades becomes evident.

Panel members will guide implementation, plan oversight and evaluation of the results and impacts of plan initiatives.

Over the past five years, the Panel and the workforce system have been implementing a regional construction workforce plan. This is the update of that Plan, along with descriptions of accomplishments to date.

Accomplishments from 2018-2020 plan:

  • Industry Panel partner organizations created a visual roadmap for youth audiences of the construction pathway process, including work experience, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship options.
  • Since 2016, more than 300 women and people of color have graduated from local partnering pre-apprenticeship providers through regional workforce investment grants.
  • CWWC developed CareersNW.org as an industry messaging platform, approach and materials to raise awareness of existing programs and opportunities
  • More and more Southwest Washington contractors are partnering with the K-12 system to host paid summer interns.

Construction is one of four key industries of focus in our region. Along with manufacturing, healthcare and technology, careers in construction offer excellent pathways to jobs paying self-sufficient wages with benefits.

WSW can assist companies that are struggling to recruit, train or retain workers. Please contact Darcy Hoffman, Director of Business Services at dhoffman@workforcesw.org, 360.608.4949 for a consultation.

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