By Rhonda Crowder
“There is a shortage in the workforce, plenty of opportunities,” said Cesar A. Sepulveda, Manager of Community Engagement at AM Higley, to a group at the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center, early October. And, that has been the sentiments spoken by industry professionals throughout the Opportunities in Construction Information Series presented by Construction Employers Association (CEA).
“We need workers. There is a huge void that needs to be filled,” Sepulveda continued. Sepulveda, a James F. Rhodes alumni, talked about construction projects’ contract goals that need to be meet such as minority, women, and Cleveland Metropolitan School District participation. He explained how he connected to the industry fairly quickly after attending an event at Esperanza and being a Cleveland school graduate played a major part.
On the east side at Imani Church, also in October, attendees heard from Kyle Jones, president of KBJ Construction. Jones is second generation in construction. His dad become an apprentice in 1966 and worked his way up. “There’s a lot of opportunity. It’s unlimited, the money you can make,” he said.
With the demand for construction and building trades labor across Northeast Ohio, CEA has conducted sessions like these in Cleveland and across Cuyahoga County for the last two years. Sessions have been held in communities from Maple Heights to Parma, and from Collinwood to W. 25th and Clark.
“There is no job called construction. Construction is the industry and there are specific jobs like pipefitters, plumbers, electricians, etc,” Glen Shumate, Vice President of CEA, found himself expressing to attendees during these events.
“We need HR professionals, accountants, office managers, safety professionals, estimators as well, everything you will need to run a business,” Shumate informed.
Victoria Reed, a native Clevelander who attended the event at Northeast Ohio Hispanic Center and Esperanza offices, said she likes to explore as many opportunities as possible and is interested in construction. An artist, she wants to do something else that could provide a nice income.
When asked if she found the event helpful, she said, “Definitely.”
“These are important people in the industry. I will for sure follow up. I want to check out all opportunities,” she said.
Working with CLC Stokes Consulting to execute the series, that connected with elected officials and community leaders to ensure they were reaching the constituency. Representatives from other agencies such as Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, El Barrio, Toward Employment, Ohio Means Jobs, Esperanza and Moore Counseling provided information about their services at the various events.
“The construction series is very important to neighborhood communities,” said Yvonne Conwell, Representative for District 7 Cuyahoga County Council. Conwell hosted four sessions in her district. “There are individuals searching for new career opportunities and we need to be able to offer our youth, the next generation, more options for employment opportunities.”
Conwell also pointed out, “We have to find new creative ways to get the message out like radio and TV so more people can have the information. For example, the next day after the series I hosted, two individuals wanted information.”
Malik Kellogg, 25, of Willoughby attends Imani United Church of Christ. He’s interested in electrical or heavy machine operation. He’s currently working as a mover, which triggered him to starting considering construction as a career path.
“I’m trying to increase and upgrade my lifestyle,” said Kellogg. Kellogg found the session to be “very helpful.” He continued, “I want to make sure I go in with the right attitude. I needed this.”
Sam Steyskal, Human Resource Coordinator for Precision Environmental Co., spoke at events about the opportunities available at her organization.
“I think it’s a good overview for people to get and idea of what’s available,” she said of the sessions. She especially commended the the list of building trades unions descriptions and contact information that is distributed. “That’s important.”
She also thinks this initiative is important as it changes the career optics for younger people. “There are a lot of people that are not college material and that’s okay. These [events] are a good venue to let people know you can have a good life, a job without college.” Employers such as Precision Environmental, Glass Inc., AKA Team, Northcoast Concrete, Cook Paving, and others have participated and hired inviduals that have attended the sessions.
Michael McKenzie, 22, found the Glenville session “very informative.” He’s interested in welding or HVAC. “I really liked Precision and will follow up with them,” he said. “I think it could be a long term career.”