Money & Business

Associations Work to Tackle Industry Workforce Shortages Head-On

By / Apr 27, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Industries from tech to the trades are struggling with workforce shortages in their industries. Here are how some associations are taking on the issue.

Over here at Associations Now, we hear from a lot of associations about how their industries are facing workforce shortages. The scarcity of workers is sometimes because the current pool is preparing to retire; sometimes it’s because there’s a stigma surrounding a certain industry; and sometimes it’s simply because youngsters don’t know about certain careers. Take landscape architecture, for instance.

“Most people still don’t really know what landscape architecture is,” said Shawn Balon, career discovery and diversity manager at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

To be honest, I was one of those people. According to ASLA, “landscape architecture combines art and science. It is the profession that designs, plans, and manages our land,” from college campuses and city gardens to waterfront developments and corporate centers. They’re essentially architects who are responsible for everything on the exterior of a building.

The last thing that a registered landscape architect wants to be called is a landscaper, Balon said. A landscape architect has not only completed a four- to five-year undergraduate degree or a two- to three-year graduate degree from an accredited program, but he or she has also apprenticed under registered landscape architects and taken several exams in order to be able to work as one.

Who knew? And that’s part of the reason Balon was hired: to educate and reach out to people of all diversities about the merits of a career in landscape architecture.

One of ASLA’s first attempts at reaching the next generation of landscape architects was a print supplement called Your Land, which came in the April 2017 issue of its monthly publication, Landscape Architecture Magazine. What’s unique is that the supplement is aimed toward kids, ages 10 to 14, “in response to a rising interest among ASLA members to introduce the profession of landscape architecture.” It’s filled with inspiring photos, case studies on project types, and some of the other nuts and bolts of the field.

The supplement was delivered to anyone who receives the magazine, with a note that they could order more for free, as long as they paid for shipping and handling. So far, ASLA has received requests from everyone from K-12 teachers to members’ clients, who are considering second careers. ASLA is also collecting information from those who have made requests, so that they can follow-up with them to glean the success of the supplement and use it to shape its career-discovery initiatives going forward.

Other associations have approached the workforce shortage in their respective industries in different ways. For instance, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association created a summer boatbuilding program for high schoolers, as a way of introducing them to the trade at a time when “many young people don’t see a hands-on trade as their first choice when it comes to building a career,” said RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie to Associations Now.

Challenging a stigma against trades, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association has launched a workforce-development initiative that encourages chapters to get involved with their local schools’ PTA meetings or career fairs, sharing the message that there are good, well-paying jobs in the plumbing, heating, and cooling trades. They hope to attract 100,000 millennials to the workforce by 2020.

Following the passage of a $1 billion transportation funding bill  in 2015, Georgia was in need of highway construction workers. To help fill the gap, the Georgia Highway Contractors Association launched a new website—Fast Lane to Jobs—with information on the various job roles and salaries, a job board with up-to-date information on current jobs, and resources specifically geared to women and Spanish speakers. On the site’s video, it reiterates this message again and again: “The pay is high, and the jobs are steady.”

Manufacturing groups have also seen the need to encourage young people to work in the industry. For example, the Manufacturing Institute and the Spring Manufacturers Institute have teamed up on the Dream It. Do It. Program, which raises awareness about careers in the field, in part through Manufacturing Day. On this day, students across the country will take field trips to manufacturing plants to hear about industry career options.

No matter the approach individual associations take to woo the next generation of workers, their end goal is the same: ensure that their industry is thriving in the years to come.

What programs or initiatives have you started to help your members with workforce development? Please leave your comments below.

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. More »

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