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Construction is Essential

RECRUITMENT CAMPAIGN IS THE LATEST TOOL IN AGC’S WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT ARSENAL

BY KATIE KUEHNER-HEBERT

The term “essential worker” took on a whole new meaning in 2020 as many employees — who considered their contribution to the workforce valuable — lost their jobs, thanks to the tailspin caused by COVID-19.

professional development programAs part of a professional development program, members of the San Antonio Chapter’s Construction Leadership Council tour a jobsite. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN ANTONIO CHAPTER

AGC chapters across the country now have a powerful tool to attract more workers to the industry: AGC of America’s Construction is Essential Workforce Campaign. The nationwide construction recruitment campaign via digital advertising and social media can be customized to fit a region’s particular workforce development needs — just ask the San Antonio Chapter and AGC of Indiana, both of which had measurable success with the campaign this spring.

CONSTRUCTION IS ESSENTIAL

The Construction is Essential Workforce Campaign was conceived in part due to how the industry was impacted by COVID-19. The coronavirus and related economic lockdowns has led to significant changes in the labor market compared to pre-pandemic times.

The construction industry, for example, cut nearly 1 million people from its payrolls be-tween March and April 2020, and only hired back about 40 percent of those workers in May and June 2020. Meanwhile, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs during the past quarter. The new labor dynamic has created a unique opportunity for the industry to attract a significant portion of the newly unemployed into high-paying construction careers.

With financing from the Construction Advocacy Fund, AGC of America in March launched “Construction is Essential,” designed to address two key facts: First, the work that construction professionals of all levels perform is essential to the country’s economic prosperity, quality of life and security from man-made and natural threats.

Secondly, as AGC saw in most parts of the country during the Spring 2020 lockdowns, construction is considered an essential sector of the economy, and its careers are more likely to be protected from future economic shutdowns. It is also a way to remind people that construction played an essential role during the pandemic maintaining infrastructure, expanding healthcare facilities and keeping the economy running.

As part of that effort, the association partnered with the San Antonio Chapter and AGC of Indiana to produce two successful Construction is Essential campaigns tailored to their respective markets — with impressive results. AGC of America is now working with a range of other chapters to launch additional efforts in other parts of the country. Here’s a look at the spring campaign:

SAN ANTONIO CHAPTER

“In San Antonio, workforce development is clearly a big issue. When we had the opportunity to work with AGC of America’s [Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives] Brian Turmail on the association’s Construction is Essential digital campaign, we jumped on it right away,” says Doug McMurry, executive vice president, San Antonio Chapter.

The chapter decided to make a commitment both financially and by offering to include links to the workforce development website that it had developed, Texas Construction Careers, in the videos and digital ads that were produced, McMurry says. This site not only covers current training and job opportunities in San Antonio, but in other Texas cities as well.

While the purpose of the campaign is to highlight that construction has been an essential industry during the pandemic, the marketing initiative “actually checked a number of boxes,” he says.

“One, it allowed us to communicate the various job opportunities currently in Texas cities that are vital to those communities,” McMurry says. “But beyond the pandemic, we are still going to be faced with the challenge of hiring enough construction people to do important projects in the city, and this campaign could attract more workers into the industry.”

For the campaign’s series of short videos, the chapter shot footage in San Antonio with local construction training providers, including representatives from the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, he says. The videos were then placed on San Antonio Chapter’s website, its Facebook page, YouTube channel and on AGC members’ websites, as well as on the websites of the other associations involved in the videos.

“We also placed digital ads on sites, targeting individuals who were displaced from their jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors, working with the digital advertising firm, a4 Media,” McMurry says. “As San Antonio is a tourist destination, there were tens of thousands of such individuals displaced during the pandemic shutdowns.”

a4 Media identified individuals who were likely in this group, by analyzing what kinds of products and services they shop for online, as well as by their keyword searches, such as “good jobs,” “best career choices,” and “higher-paying careers,” he says. The digital ads then showed up on sites they visit, both social media job boards.

“For example, say someone who lost their job as a bartender or a hotel housekeeper is now interested in a higher-paying job and is on a site looking for information about better careers,” McMurry says. “Chances are they’ll then see our ad about higher-paying jobs in the construction industry, with a call-to-action ‘click here.’”

courtesy of san antonio

 

Workforce development does not stop after the hiring. Young professionals on a “hard hat” tour last spring in San Antonio.  PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN ANTONIO CHAPTER 15

a4 Media then tracked impressions and click-through rates — the San Antonio campaign logged 1.39 million impressions and more than 10,000 clicks.

The links to Texas Construction Careers within the campaign’s videos and digital ads also included testimonials, including this one by Laura Malek, preconstruction manager at Bartlett Cocke General Contractors in Austin, Texas:

“Living and working in a fast-growing city has provided me with a fulfilling career — one which has enabled me to be part of a hard-working team, striving to elevate our community through new and exciting buildings in the education, healthcare and housing sectors. The construction industry not only encourages careers in leadership and team building, but it also fosters strong relationships within the community and beyond. Working in construction is not just a career — it’s an extended family.”

Coincidentally, the Construction is Essential campaign ended just as a new workforce development initiative in San Antonio was starting, the SA Ready to Work initiative, “so the timing was perfect,” McMurry says.

“Nowhere in the country is there a city using sales tax revenue to promote jobs in construction,” he says. “All of the good work we had done with AGC of America’s Construction is Essential campaign put us in a great position to make the case to the city that construction should be one of the targeted industries in this initiative.”

The SA Ready to Work initiative actually had a precursor, Train for Jobs, funded by the pandemic stimulus money that San Antonio received through the CARES Act, similar to the funds that other municipalities across the country received, McMurry says. City officials learned several key takeaways from that earlier initiative, including how to best solicit agencies to further enhance workforce development activities.

Specifically, city officials realized the prudence of selecting a variety of agencies, each providing specialized services, he says. For example, there are agencies in charge of intake — accepting people who have been displaced by the pandemic shutdowns. There are also agencies to provide “wraparound” services, which might include transportation, childcare — “all of the things necessary for individuals to launch their new careers.”

Because of the work the San Antonio Chapter did with the Construction is Essential campaign, McMurry was appointed vice chair of the city’s nine-member advisory committee, helping city officials identify the best job training agencies with which to partner within the construction industry.

“Workforce development in the construction industry has been a perennial problem, and the pandemic highlighted some of the deficiencies we were already working on,” he says. “The Construction is Essential campaign and the SA Ready to Work initiative are exciting new developments in terms of helping us supply more resources specific to this problem.”

San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and as such, needs people to help build hospitals, grocery stores, schools and more, McMurry says.

“These initiatives help us to communicate to people that they can have great careers helping to build the city,” he says. “Coming out of the pandemic, the good jobs will still be available.”

AGC OF INDIANA

AGC of Indiana has been focused on workforce development over the last couple of years, approaching it from a different angle than in the past, says Michelle Boyd, president of the chapter, based in Indianapolis.

“We used to rely on traditional media, but we wanted to modernize our outreach and communicate more with digital media and social media to attract a younger generation,” Boyd says. “We are focused on working with high school students and young adults interested in a career change. We are committed to communicating that there are so many opportunities for well-paying careers in the construction industry.”

AGC of Indiana partners with a couple of organizations to bolster workforce development in the Hoosier State, including the Indiana Careers in Construction Association (CICA), which represents 60 apprenticeship training programs that serve contractors that are members of AGC of Indiana, she says.

“When Brian Turmail sent a callout looking for chapters to participate in a digital media campaign, I thought it would be a complement to what we were already doing with the Indiana Careers in Construction Association,” Boyd says.

AGC of Indiana’s partners at the ICCA had produced videos and housed them on the ICCA website, builttosucceed.org, she says. So, for the Construction is Essential campaign, the chapter simply linked to those videos.

AGC of America’s digital advertising partner in this campaign, a4 Media, “was easy to work with,” Boyd says.

“They are very intuitive and were eager to learn about our state-specific workforce development needs,” she says. “We focused on highlighting the trades — the ‘boots on the ground’ workforce development element. AGC of America was happy to do so — they are willing to tailor the program to focus on what each chapter needs.”

In the digital ads, the chapter included the AGC of Indiana logo and ICCA’s logo to create a co-branded landing page for clickthroughs, Boyd says. The digital ads were placed on Facebook. When someone clicked on an ad, they were directed to the landing page and then on to builttosucced.org for more information, so prospects could learn more about each trade opportunity.

The series of videos of construction workers used in the Construction is Essential campaign were prefaced by an introductory paragraph:

“Meet our students! Applying to an educational institution is a big step toward securing your future. But, the world of education is changing. Traditional college is not for everyone. Are you a technical thinker, a problem solver and a hard worker who is interested earning AND learning at the same time? You might have something in common with our students!”

After the videos, all titled, “Are you built to succeed?,” the site then invites readers to fill out a common application that allows a prospect to make an initial application to all of the trades at one time.

“You could not pick a better time to consider a career in construction,” the site states. “Economic growth and new technology have created an explosion of opportunity in construction. From skilled tradesmen to project managers to technical engineers and even company owners … the depth of opportunity has never been greater! Instead of simply registering for four years of education, consider an apprenticeship program that can offer you education and a career in one of the nation’s hottest industries.”

As a participating chapter in the Construction is Essential campaign, AGC of Indiana “didn’t have to reinvent the wheel — the program helped us to strengthen a workforce development partnership we already had in place,” Boyd says.

“This was an initial pilot program for the national organization, and both AGC of America and our chapter made a financial investment,” she says. “If the program offers an additional chance to participate, our chapter will be in!”

AGC of America has a dedicated webpage, Become Essential, on its workforce development site. The site states, “Construction is for everyone,” and explains:

  • Who will become essential — “Anyone can thrive with a con struction career”;
  • Why someone should become essential — “The benefits of careers in construction”;
  • How to become essential — “Start your construction career.”

AGC chapters across the country interested in developing a Construction is Essential digital and social media campaign are invited to learn more by contacting Brian Turmail, vice president, public affairs and strategic initiatives, at (703) 837-5313 or brian.turmail@agc.org.

AGC to Hold Inaugural National Construction Industry Workforce Summit

AGC of America’s inaugural National Construction Industry Workforce Summit is designed to bring together leaders in the construction and workforce development community to focus on establishing solutions to chronic worker shortages. During this day-long summit, construction and workforce development professionals will learn about successful programs that are helping recruit, develop and retain high-quality construction professionals.

The goals of the summit are to identify a more consistent approach that industry should take to improve the workforce pipeline, leverage existing strategies proven successful, and make connections that provide support and resources to attendees to continue addressing workforce development issues long after the summit ends. You can find more details about the summit at
https://bit.ly/InauguralWorkforceSummit.