Page 18 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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 “It doesn’t
seem like a lot of people have ambitions to
be in the trades anymore. Not a lot of people are showing up.”
peculiarities about the sector that makes it unappealing for some companies, but we found a niche there.”
COVID was an interesting time, he added, as Houle built temporary structures at Baystate Medical Cen-
ter and Cooley Dickinson Hospital to handle COVID overflow, among other projects, but infection-control measures at area hospitals didn’t make things easy. “We were really, really needed, but they also didn’t want us there.”
All these firms have traveled different paths and made unique impacts on the landscape — both literally and figuratively. But they’ve shared many challenges, too.
Priming the Pump
One substantial change across the industry has to do with workforce — in particular, the flow of young workers into the industry, which has slowed to a trickle, something every contractor we spoke with for this story recognized.
Many years ago, Marois said, each summer, “we’d have nine or 10 or more college students that would come here automatically, and we’d hire them all. They’d stay for the four-year college stint.”
Nowadays, even vocational-school graduates are slim pickings, he went on. “It doesn’t seem like a lot of people have ambitions to be in the trades anymore. Not a lot of people are showing up. We’re even advertising on television.”
Pelletier agreed. “The economy has been shifting. Traditionally, you got apprenticeship work in the field. Today, a lot of young people are being pushed toward college, and none are excited to come out of school with an expensive degree to go into a career where they didn’t need a degree to begin with.”
He hopes some might be drawn by rising salaries, especially for in-demand trades like HVAC. “Demand is as high as ever, so beginning wages are increasing, and the costs to us are increasing.”
Indeed, Marois said someone still learning on the job can make $17 an hour, and they could be making $45 to $50 on a public-works project not too much later. “There’s some incentive there for young people, the fact that you can start at that level that quickly. But it doesn’t seem to be enticing for a lot of these young people.”
Hassanein said some of the technology being used in construction today may draw more individuals to con- sider a career.
“We have a lot of connected systems and data, and being able to make decisions and being guided by that data is becoming more and more prominent in our world, where it wasn’t before. So the people you want to bring in are people that can do that type of work and can process that information and translate it to the job.”
Pelletier added that “the obvious answer is to make it more appealing, pay more, and offer more benefits, but we can also get people from different sectors, like warehousing and retail. That’s something I like to do — find people in my daily commute, at Dunkin’ Donuts or Men’s Wearhouse, somebody who has a good personal- ity and is always working hard; I encounter them daily. They may be at a job that’s just paying the bills, and if
I have a need for an apprentice, I can put them on a career path.
“Our only option at this point is to be more proactive than looking for the kids who go from trade school right into the industry,” he added. “Those kids don’t exist in large numbers anymore. So we have to deal with that.”
Hassanein added that the workforce shortage across the industry was in evidence before COVID, but the pan- demic exacerbated the situation.
MAY 13, 2024 << 4OTH ANNIVERSARY >> BusinessWest
to BusinessWest on 40 Great Years!
General Contractors Project Management
First, let me say that it has been a complete joy and privilege to have known and worked with your magazine and great staff over the past forty years.
I remember a very young Kate DesLauriers (Campiti) coming to my
office to solicit advertising, and I always made sure that I purchased her services because it was a good product and I wanted her to succeed. Plus, I enjoyed our chats and wanted her to keep coming back. I feel so proud of where she is today and I know how hard she worked to get there.
Congratulations to all of you at BusinessWest – and for the great service you provide.
~ Joe Marois, President
Design Engineering

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