The construction industry is facing a crisis, one that may be surprising considering unemployment is at a 50-year low.
As the number of construction projects in our region has slowly increased, the number of skilled laborers has rapidly decreased. Nearly 80% of construction firms nationally report difficulty finding qualified craft workers to hire. This massive labor shortage makes it vital to emphasize the importance of STEM education, and the viability of careers in the trades, to students who can fill the huge skilled labor gap after high school. In order to secure the future of the construction industry, a more direct approach must be taken to educate today’s students on their options.
Leading this charge for a sixth year, EDiS Company sponsored the Delaware SkillsUSA Competition, held at St. Georges Technical High School Feb. 18-20, 2020. SkillsUSA offers local, state, and national opportunities for students to learn and practice personal, workplace, and technical skills. These three components comprise the “SkillsUSA Framework,” a blueprint for career readiness. Students train in a number of different vocational trades to hone their skills for the future in preparation for the competition.
EDiS provided the materials necessary for the competition. And three experienced EDiS superintendents judged and benchmarked each individual contest. Students competed in one of four categories based on profession: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and masonry.
EDiS judge Dave Breakiron emphasized this point, “Simply put, where the industry is going right now, we don’t have a lot of mechanics in the business, and that goes for all trades across the board. These kids are the future — a lot of the older guys are getting ready to hang it up.”
Students worked together over the course of three days to build a structure based on the building plans they were provided. And throughout the program, judges shared their observations and elicited feedback from participants.
The judges also worked closely with the school administration and trade instructors, including some from POLYTECH High School and Hodgson Vocational Technical High School. The hope is that success and teamwork throughout the competition will inspire many of the students to pursue careers that will make them a part of the long-standing tradition of proud Delaware construction workers.
Frank Hanson, a carpenter instructor at St. Georges said the competition had been an important “real world” experience for the students.
“I thank EDiS Company and all the high schools who participated. Without them, none of this would be possible. This competition is the most important of the skills competitions we host here at St. Georges. It captures what the construction industry is all about, all the trades coming together to build something new. It gives the kids real-world experience that they can utilize for the future. We as teachers feel validated when we get to see our students in action and their conversations with us and the judges as to why and how they do a specific task.”
The top medalist in the contest will be recognized for their achievements and may earn their way to representing the state of Delaware at the National SkillsUSA conference to be held June 23-26, 2020.