The exterior of one of
the two homes being built for Operation Finally Home
seen Friday afternoon in Jackson. Operation Finally
Home is a nonprofit organization based in Texas that
builds homes for service men and women returning
home with special needs. U.S. Army Sgt. Drew
Wroblewski of Menomonee Falls was given one of the
homes in August.
Ehlke/Conley News Service
- Leaders in the construction industry hope they can build
students’ enthusiasm for learning a trade just as they
are able to construct a home - with planning, vision and
guidance. For the past few years more focus has been
placed on exposing middle-school and high-school students
to manufacturing jobs, but building and construction
industry leaders are now making a concerted effort to
recruit future workers to their trades.
Oct. 22 and Oct. 29 students will be taken by the Waukesha
County Business Alliance to the sites of two homes under
construction for veterans in Jackson as part of Operation
Baer, vice president of community engagement for the
Waukesha County Business Alliance, said the
organization’s Schools-2Skills program has been extended
to included construction.
program is expanding in response to the Alliance’s
members saying they are having a hard time finding people
to fill open positions.
Mike Mogensen of Precise Poured Walls walks a
tape measure and level to another corner as
construction continues on one of the two homes being
built for Operation Finally Home in Jackson.
Ehlke/Conley News Service
Hillmer, executive director of the Metropolitan Builders
Association, said there is a “huge labor problem,”
explaining there are multiple levels to the issue.
leaders in the manufacturing industry, Hillmer said the
focus on sending students to college to get a four-year
degree hasn’t always served those kids or the national
workforce well. While a traditional university degree is
the right choice for many, she said it’s not for
everyone, so as a society we need to stop defining success
as obtaining a degree.
don’t necessarily learn how to do something, they learn
about something,” Hillmer said about the traditional
approach to post-high school education.
my personal opinion we have done an entire generation of
kids a disservice. We have said your value is based on
getting a four-year degree,” she said.
building industry was hit especially hard by the Great
Recession and many of those who were already in the
skilled trades ended up learning
a new skill.
lot of the skilled trade (workers) went and learned how to
do something else,” Hillmer said. “They are no longer
in the trades or in our region; they went and moved
somewhere else in the country.”
who are left in the skilled trades in the metro Milwaukee
area are real survivors, she said. But there aren’t
enough of those workers to complete the work needed for a
recovering building and construction market. In addition,
it takes time to learn a trade, such as to become a
plumber or electrician. For some skilled trades, schooling
is needed while others require a multiple- year
sometimes they are hiring staff from other builders,”
Hillmer said of companies. “There is a lot of turn
(over) that is sometimes happening. They are having to
delay their construction projects.”
instance, Hillmer said she recently met with an MBA member
who only had three feet of crown molding left to install
at a project, but told it would take about 12 weeks for
the contractor to find time for the installation. In turn,
business owners are careful about mentioning who they use
for projects because they don’t want to lose them to a
competitor, especially if the worker is experienced.
Bob Mogensen of Precise
Poured Walls looks over his schematic diagram as
construction continues on the two homes being built
for Operation Finally Home Friday afternoon in
Ehlke/Conley News Service
said it will take years to bridge the gap in the labor
market. Parents, education leaders and members of the
federal government all must be made aware of the worker
shortage and recognize the value of going into the
building trades. She also wants to reach students as young
as middle-school age about the jobs that offer family
some ways, Hillmer said manufacturing has overshadowed the
building trades about drawing attention to its skills gap.
is more visible because manufacturing started to come back
in the economy before construction did,” Hillmer said.
“Now all of a sudden it’s hitting.”
said the labor shortage for the building industries took
the Business Alliance by surprise a bit, but now it is
hearing about the issue from many of its members.
said the MBA is working with the Business Alliance on the
Schools-2Skills program, including with the Operation
Finally Home project. For the project, land was donated by
Neumann Companies in Pewaukee. Belman Homes from Waukesha
is constructing a stick-built home and Tim O’Brien Homes
from the City of Pewaukee is erecting a panel home. Baer
said having the two types of construction on display is
great exposure for the students who will tour the Jackson
site later this month.
of the most powerful things is to get kids in front of
contractors to ask questions,” Hillmer said. “It’s
exposure and awareness that these are really good jobs.
This is not something going to be solved overnight.”
Buford, chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Area
Workforce Investment Board, said there are a number of
apprenticeship training centers in Waukesha County. His
organization plans to use a $3 million grant from the U.S.
Department of Labor to expand seven new registered
apprenticeships in information technology, health care,
manufacturing and construction.
programs are especially important for companies that work
to advance employees by teaching them new trades. Buford
said it sends the message that the employee is worth the
investment and the company wants to help them grow.
need companies to take it on,” Buford said. “For some
companies it’s ‘I don’t want to invest in someone
and they leave me and work for someone else.’” Jeff
Smith, United Steelworkers union president, said it’s
hard to get the younger generation learning a trade
because they want to achieve things quickly.
people young people I talk to want instant
gratification,” he said. But he said “Get a skill and
you can use it for a lifetime.”
is working with his company, Res Manufacturing Group in
Milwaukee, to educate young people through an 18-month
need to build stuff and build our country — that’s
serious,” Smith said.