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AGC shares ‘whole-of-firm’ approach to workforce development

By Audrey Copeland PH.D., P.E., NAPA President & CEO
audrey copeland

At NAPA’s Annual Meeting last week, we talked a lot about sustainability and ensuring our members thrive as climate and lowering emissions are being factored into construction material decisions.

One member, Margi Brooks of Brooks Construction Company, expressed to me and one of our Board members, Dan Gallagher of Gallagher Asphalt, her appreciation for our efforts and rang the bell on the continued challenges with workforce recruitment and retention. This morning, on a call with fellow NAPA Board Member, Dan Garcia, we also briefly discussed what a prominent issue workforce is and how C.W. Matthews is leading the way in new initiatives focused on their current and future employees. It was a timely discussion, as the AGC of America just released a report based on insights from their 2023 National Construction Industry HR & Workforce Conference, which Dan Gallagher shared with us.

The report is a quick read (just 15 pages!) and I strongly encourage others to read it to gain valuable information to encourage workforce development to be a priority at all levels of construction companies from the C-suite to the frontline workers. Here are some takeaways that resonated with me as I consider the asphalt pavement industry: 

  • Workforce opportunities and challenges should be addressed across the organization, empowering all employees, not just 1 or 2 departments.  
  • Crucial to potential and future employees are culture, flexibility, investment in their training and development, creating clear, transparent opportunities for advancement, and communicating the path or “how” to achieve advancement.  
  • Encourage employees and provide time in their schedule for them to get involved in their local schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) Advisory Boards and industry programs and to hold information sessions with local guidance counselors and teachers. A key takeaway of NAPA’s report on Workforce Development Findings: Understanding the Opportunities in Asphalt is that local school counselors and teachers are a key resource in influencing younger students to consider careers in construction.  
  • There are opportunities for youth employment and increasing exposure to our industry – many states permit firms to employ underage workers with limits on the type of work they can perform.  
  • Create opportunities for office employees and front line/field employees to connect, understand each other’s roles and challenges, and even get involved in each other’s projects or spend part of a day in each other’s roles.  
  • Celebrate teams, i.e. people, at all levels and consider that you are not just marketing to future clients, but also to future employees.  
  • Support worker mental health – NAPA offers information on resources for Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry and NAPA recently signed the Suicide in Construction Awareness Proclamation 
  • Learn about the difference between mentoring programs and sponsorship programs – sponsorship programs have been found to be more effective, especially for retaining women in construction.  
  • Consider your workforce’s transportation needs to get to the jobsite and help them find solutions.  

AGC is hosting a free webinar on Feb. 27 titled “How Contractors are Tackling Workforce Challenges with a Whole-of-Firm Approach.” 

This webinar builds on the key themes explored at AGC’s inaugural Construction Industry HR and Workforce Conference in November 2023, providing deeper insights into effective strategies for tackling today’s workforce challenges. Attendees will gain access to the 2023 Construction HR & Workforce Conference After Action Report, which offers a comprehensive overview of conference sessions and emphasizes the significance of a whole-of-firm approach to workforce development.

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