The workforce challenge: ‘We need engaged talent’

(Photography by Don Kadair) Grady Crawford Construction Vice President Trey Crawford

Trey Crawford is vice president of Grady Crawford Construction and chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors-Pelican Chapter. Through his own company’s experience and his work with ABC, he knows as well as anyone how hard it is to get young people interested in the industrial crafts.

“We see a lack of enthusiasm for construction jobs, and that’s a major problem,” Crawford says.

For some young people, he suggests, finding their way into a training program for a good job as a welder or pipefitter might be literally life-saving, or at least life-changing.

“We’re trying to get these kids off the streets,” Crawford says. “We need engaged talent.”

When Ronnie Gulino, director of field services for ISC, was a teenager, every school had industrial arts, he says. But many of those programs were phased out as schools focused on preparing students for four-year college degrees.

“We’re reaping those ills now,” he says. “I think it’s getting better, but we’ve gotten so far behind the eight-ball that it’s going to take a while to catch up.”

While there may not be a silver bullet, ABC wants to be part of a solution. The association runs two craft training centers—one in Baton Rouge and one in Westlake—that serve about 500 high school students a year. The students spend half of their day at their traditional schools and half with ABC.

It’s one of several efforts to blend traditional classroom instruction with industry training, hopefully leading to good jobs for Louisiana residents and adding to the pipeline of qualified South Louisiana workers. Read more about programs designed to address the issue.