Tom Brown: Economic reports are in for the first half of 2018 and they are very good. Unemployment is 3.8 percent, the lowest it has been since April 2000. Unemployment for women is 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1953. Jobless rates for African Americans and Hispanics are also at all-time low. Steve, how does this relate to the PVF industry?
Steve Letko: The economic reports are reflecting the vastly improved health of our economy predicated on the actions implemented by the current administration. Reductions in stifling regulations, lower tax rates, expensing capital expenditures during the year incurred, along with increased consumer confidence, have propelled our economy to heights not seen since the Regan inspired rebound.
The good news for the economy also presents tremendous pressure on the need for skilled labor, which is desperately required for the construction of new projects. New pipeline projects and retrofitting of existing pipeline systems, building of new and revamping of power plants, rebuilding the infrastructure, new construction in chemical, refinery and liquified natural gas industries are all at risk of delays due to shortages of skilled labor.
The replenishing of our skilled labor force over several decades has been overlooked by the educational system. The emphasis on academic achievement over the trades, and cultural negativity regarding those in the trades, have contributed to the current state of the shortage in the skilled labor force.
TMB: The flip side of all this good economic news is the fact that there are now more available job openings than workers to fill them. The economic pundits are saying that this phenomenon might stall the growth we have been experiencing in GDP. The third quarter is predicted to come in at a very strong 4 percent, which we have not seen since 2007.
SL: With all the good news regarding the expanding economy, there remains a pool of unemployed that are sitting on the sidelines. This is due to the welfare state, and the lack of skills to participate in the construction market place. The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the PVF Roundtable are among the many industry organizations that recognize the urgency of replenishing the graying skilled labor force.
Increased emphasis is being place on expanding the scholarship programs for trade schools. This is being accomplished by promoting the dignity of skilled labor at the high school level, along with educating the students on pay scales for journeymen in the skilled labor fields.
The next five years will see a tremendous increase in the exodus from the trades due to the graying of the skilled labor pool. The industry is aware of the risks to planned construction projects and the possible delays in construction. The engineering and construction field, unions, mechanical contractors, pipeline contractors, fabricators and owners are all scurrying to catch up in the training of new entries into the skilled labor pool. This is being done by providing in-house training, promotion of trade schools, providing financial incentives for new trainees and higher wages for qualified individuals.
The number of new and proposed projects is immense and still growing. They are critical to all segments of our economy, including industrial infrastructure, commercial construction and workforce participation. Our GDP may be negatively impacted by the lack of skilled labor participation.
The construction industry, including the PVF sector, provide the economy with an expanded and well paid labor force that contributes exponentially to the consumer sector of our economy. Delays or cancellation of new and proposed construction projects would have a dampening effect on the consumer sector that drives GDP.
TMB: Steve, you are currently attending the mechanical contractor’s midyear meeting, which has the important topic on its agenda of finding, training and hiring highly skilled workers and laborers. Please share with us MCAA’s important initiatives for its membership in an area so important to contractor’s business and profitability.
SL: Talent recruitment was a major topic of discussion during the summer session. The greying labor pool of engineering and skilled labor has become a serious issue in today’s market and will become critical in the next 5 to 10 years - if the industry does not take action. This issue, and that of the overall health of the industry, is of primary concern for the MCAA Board and its membership. The need for immediate attention to these problems has been recognized MCAA, and it is working on affirmative action plans.
MCAA is concentrating on the development and training of engineering, management and technology talent. This is being done by recruitment and training new talent at the freshman level, utilizing internships, job fairs and networking events. It also engages students through the The Mechanical Contracting Education & Research Foundation (MCERF) student project competition. MCAA’s partner, the United Association (UA), is focused on recruitment and training of the skilled labor force.
In addition to MCAA reaching out to the freshman class, it was suggested that its local chapters reach out as well, making students aware of the rewarding careers the industry offers. The local chapters could also connect with their local Board of Education, to promote the reinstatement of vocational training at the high school level.
Many members of MCAA are even hiring professional educators to run their own training facilities, as they recognize the seriousness of the situation and its importance to the future of their organizations.
TMB: Steve, your involvement with both MCAA and the PVF Roundtable is very beneficial for both organizations and their respective memberships. A major benefit from this “cross pollination” so to speak will be a major speaker at the August PVF Roundtable meeting.
SL: I am pleased to advise that Greg L. Fuller, President of North Mechanical Contracting of Indianapolis, as well as Past President of MCAA, has graciously agreed to address the PVF Roundtable board of directors at our August 14th, 2018 Networking Meeting in Houston. He will also be attending the Networking Session.
Mr. Fuller will be discussing common issues shared with MCAA, our industry and the PVF Roundtable. Greg came up through the trades as a journeyman plumber, receiving his status in 1985, and joined North Mechanical in 1991 as a project manager. He transitioned into the company’s leadership team as vice president, and then purchased the company in 1997.
The August meeting starts at 4:30 P.M. and will be held at:
The Bell Tower on 34th
901 W. 34th Street
Houston, TX 77018
TMB: The Don Caffee Memorial Golf Outing, sponsored by the Roundtable, was no less than a Home Run! You, Joe Pro, Bob Hunter and fellow board members should be very proud.
SL: This tournament has become so popular that two courses were required to handle the participants. Sweetwater Country Club has a sister course close by and those assigned to this course were bussed over after breakfast. Net players played at the Sweetwater Club and the gross players were on Sugar Creek course. The coordination of all volunteers, activities and the awards dinner were choreographed by Bob Hunter and his staff. All activities were managed excellently and executed without any major glitches. This tournament is a major source of scholarship funding and this year’s tournament generated some $60,000+ of revenue for the fund. We are extremely proud of Bob Hunter’s accomplishments in organizing an outstanding fundraising event.
It is important to note that the PVF Roundtable does not have a paid administration staff, and members of the board of directors serve as unpaid officers. Everyone, including committee members and volunteers, serve without compensation. The board of directors extends its thanks to everyone for their participation and support of the PVF Roundtable. We look forward to our next fundraising event “PVF Trout Blast 2018” scheduled for October 11-12th, 2018 in Matagorda Bay, TX. Check out the website for additional details www.pvf.org.