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Facebook Launches Building Trades Training Program

Thursday, October 28, 2021

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To help the construction industry find skilled laborers, social media giant Facebook has recently launched a nationwide construction job training program.

Slated to be located at its various data center construction sites across the country, the eight-week “Hardhat in Hand” program will give participants experience in electrical work, concrete, carpentry and sheet metalworking.

Amber Tillman, Community Development Manager for Facebook, told reporters that the hands-on program also plans to expose participants to other related fields, such as masonry and HVAC work, and plans to issue OSHA-10 cards and CPR certifications.

Earlier this year, in August, Facebook announced it would be building a 960,000-square-foot data center in Mesa, Arizona. The $800 million project is just one of the locations that plans to host the training program and is slated to improve Arizona’s construction workforce.

PeopleImages / Getty Images

To help the construction industry find skilled laborers, social media giant Facebook has recently launched a nationwide construction job training program.

“Hardhat in Hand is one of our efforts to invest in communities we are a part of. It is our attempt to address a key need—lack of skilled workers in the construction industry that Arizona and other states are facing,” said David Williams, another Community Development Manager at Facebook.

“The goal of the program is to expand the local skilled trades talent pipeline, increase diversity in the construction industry and provide a path to reliable well-paid job opportunities.”

Participants will start with four weeks of classroom coursework (for which they are paid minimum wage) and later advance to on-the-job training, which is paid at the hourly rate of entry-level tradespeople in their chosen field. Once they’ve completed the program, Facebook reports that they’ll be prepared for entry-level careers in construction.

Hardhat in Hand intended for anyone aged 18 and older who is interested in making construction a career, rather than for workers who are already in the industry.

For the program, Facebook adds that it is partnering with DPR Construction, the general contractor on the data center project in Mesa, to build out the program and staffing. A local community college and/or vocational school is expected to provide the in-classroom training portion of the program.

“It's kind of a win-win for the construction industry and for the job seekers who might not have known that this was a viable path to a rewarding career,” said Tillman.

Facebook’s Hardhat in Hand program began as a pilot program at three of the company’s data centers in Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio in 2019. Due to COVID-19, these efforts witnessed a slowdown in participation. However, Facebook now expects the program to be up and running again by the end of 2022.

Once launched, the program will have cohorts at all active data center construction sites, totaling 13 locations in states including Texas, Ohio, New Mexico and Nebraska.

Worker Shortage

In a report released late last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has found that contractors in the commercial construction industry are witnessing a slowdown in post-pandemic recovery. The third-quarter Commercial Construction Index notes that worker shortages, material shortages and rising prices as just some of the industry’s ongoing challenges.

Now in the third quarter of 2021, nearly all (92%) of contractors have reported some level of difficulty regarding finding skilled workers. However, this quarter specifically has witnessed a 10% jump from the second quarter, finding that 55% of contractors are now reporting high levels of difficulty.

As a result of the worker shortage, 42% of those contractors reporting difficulty have had to turn down work, up from 35% in Q2. Other notable data points include:

  • 73% of those contractors who report difficulty finding skilled labor say it’s a challenge to meet project deadline requirements (up from 56% in Q2); and
  • 59% of contractors are putting in higher bids for projects (up from 50%) because of worker shortages.

“This quarter’s Index findings demonstrate the fragility of our economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. And unfortunately, these trends are not limited to the commercial construction industry,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley at the time.

“Across all sectors of the economy, businesses are facing tremendous difficulties finding skilled labor. Supply chain shortages and rising inflationary pressures are threatening to stop our economic resurgence in its tracks. We need to address our worker shortages, including by doubling legal immigration, and address supply chain issues, including through tariff reductions.”

Overall, in terms of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors report the following as their biggest concerns:

  • 62% struggle with less availability of building products/materials;
  • 38% are concerned with health and safety; and
  • 37% struggle with the increase in worker shortages.

Despite these concerns, which are reflected in the report’s Index score, contractors foresee improvements over the long term. In the third quarter, the index rose one point to 66. Two of the three leading indicator scores—confidence in new business opportunities and backlog—improved slightly, while the score for revenue remained unchanged.

A full copy of the Q3 CCI can be viewed here.


Tagged categories: Construction; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America; OSHA; Projects - Commercial; Worker training; Workers

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