California needs 3,000 ready-mix truck drivers now, according to estimates. And in the next few years, the number of retiring drivers will far outnumber those entering the field. This creates a huge workforce gap amid a strong construction economy.
“We really need to get people trained and interested in our industry,” said Mike Toland, president of Spragues’ Ready Mix and the Chair of the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA) Board of Directors. “We really need to fill a pipeline with trained and employable workers.” It’s not just truck drivers who are needed, workers in every facet of the construction materials industry are in demand.
A new pilot program partners CalCIMA with the San Bernardino Community College District (SBCCD) and workforce development agencies in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to introduce students to this industry and train them to be “workforce ready” upon graduation. That industry encompasses providing construction materials such as concrete, asphalt and road base.
“One of the principle issues and threats to the industry that came up was the lack of a workforce and the difficulty people were having in finding workers, particularly in filling existing jobs,” said CalCIMA President and CEO Gary Hambly. “As a matter of fact, some of my companies were not able to do jobs because they didn’t have the workforce to do them. We were tasked as an association with trying to identify a way to remedy that.”
The first pilot program, a 48-hour Employment Bridge Training program, took place in Fall 2019 with 14 students graduating. A new cohort will begin this Spring.
“For nearly 100 years, our work has centered on raising the prosperity of our students and families. We do this by teaming up with partners like the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association, which represents an industry with 1.16 million good-paying jobs,” said Jose F. Torres, interim chancellor for the SBCCD. “Our partnership means that we provide students with real-world skills recognized by employers so that they can be successful on the job on day one.”
“The Bridge program is designed to provide an introductory understanding of what the industry is, it’s history and the categories and types of jobs that are available,” said Kay Hazen a CalCIMA consultant, who explained the students gain basic math, communication, and computer skills, plus an OSHA 10 certification. “Safety training is a requirement as well as resume building, how to apply online, and some practical skills for succeeding in not only this industry, but particularly this industry.”
Deanna Krehbiel, director of economic development and corporate training for the SBCCD added, “We took college students who were about to graduate and provided them with training in the missing skills that they were not getting in college that they need for CalCIMA (related companies), so that when they got done with the program and they graduated, they have all the skillsets they need in order to go and get hired.”
Given the response to the program, the students’ career prospects are looking positive. “A good indicator is that we have 23 employers sign on to guarantee interviews,” said Hazen. “That’s a good incentive and recruitment tool that typically doesn’t exist.”
CalCIMA and SBCCD are working on a second pilot program which is a 275-hour Entry Level Worker Program that will launch this Spring. There are also plans to expand this program as the workforce need is statewide.
This pathway offers good paying jobs that will stay local, according to Toland. “The products dug out of the ground that we ultimately put in our trucks for delivery are a perishable product. You’re not hauling concrete over state lines. You really need to be within probably no more than a 30-mile radius of a ready-mix plant for your product.”
Added Hambly, “What’s unique about our industry, unlike some, our facilities are frequently located in urban settings. They’re permanent facilities – a lot of construction jobs you have to go from job to job — and that was very attractive to some people because they’re going to the same place every day.”
The pilot program may already be paying dividends for the students, “As an employer, that would get them to the front of the line,” said Toland. “’Yes, we want to talk to you and because you’ve had a head start on what it is we do.’”