Iowa Builders Group’s New Endowment Targets Industry Skills Gap

A new endowment launched by Master Builders of Iowa will fund innovative solutions to close the industry's skills gap and bring younger workers into the construction field.

An Iowa trade group for the construction industry is putting some serious financial muscle into its effort to address a skills gap that may be keeping younger workers from getting into construction careers.

This week, Master Builders of Iowa announced the launch of MBI Works, a $5 million endowment to fund new resources for career education and workforce recruitment. The initiative was approved by the association’s board late last year.

For years, construction-related organizations have been taking a multifaceted approach to building a future workforce equipped with the right skills. For good reason, too: An Associated General Contractors of America study from earlier this year reported that 78 percent of companies said that they’re having a hard time finding skilled workers to fill necessary positions.

MBI President and CEO Chad Kleppe said this trend was a driving factor behind the endowment. “We are seeing more people retiring, and we just are not filling those positions as quickly as we necessarily need,” he said, according to Radio Iowa.

But the strategy isn’t to simply throw money at the problem. MBI hopes to support innovation in workforce development and encourage more younger people to look at construction as a career option. With that in mind, the board of the new endowment will be on the lookout for a variety of new ideas. It is accepting proposals for funding through September 3. Proposals must include some involvement with an MBI member company.

“The MBI Works Endowment Board will take into consideration proposals that are focused on construction career advocacy, as well as other initiatives focused on creating interest in the commercial construction industry,” MBI Director of Public Affairs Ben Hammes wrote in a blog post. “This isn’t about scholarships, but instead about relationship building and partnerships that will move the needle in addressing our skills gap.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds helped announce the plan this week. “By connecting educators, students, and business professionals, we are placing Iowa’s young people in the driver’s seat to explore in-demand careers through real-world experiences in the workplace,” Reynolds said, according to Cedar Valley Business Monthly. “These relationships are crucial to filling our talent pipeline with the most job-ready, STEM-savvy workforce in the country.”

Kleppe added that the industry needs to take a bold approach to a major economic challenge. “The formula we’ve been relying on for years isn’t cutting it, so we have to get more creative and bring more people to the table,” he said.

(Anastasiia_New/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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