Sean Richard Creter is already well-known around the office. Business associates at Creter Vault Corp. say this company's future leader “takes over whenever he's there.” The energetic 2-year-old, who already looks the part of a concrete man, represents the traditional path of the producer's managerial future. He is the sixth-generation family member walking (although just barely) in the family footsteps.
Most producers, however, can't guarantee the next generation will be there to carry the torch. Ultimately, it's up to each one to attract strong candidates. But with the backing of industry associations, this quest can be less daunting. Practically every association now has a committee focusing on recruitment.
From human resources meetings to boardrooms and national conferences, producers and associations are addressing this question. Individually and in collaboration, they are hoping to find an answer before the effect of a labor shortage hits the bottom line.
They are every concrete producer's biggest assets: trained drivers, educated technical professionals, and knowledgeable sales people. But where will we find the elusive skilled workforce of the future?
Improving our image
Recruiting and retention experts have discovered an underlying issue essential to the future of the industry. Educating students, hosting competitions, and training employees will only go so far if the industry itself is not attractive.
Tom Pittman, chairman-elect of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association's (NRMCA) Education Activities Committee for 2007, offers an analogy: “Imagine you graduate from school with two options,” he says. “Behind the first door you see a dirty job, long hours, and a certain level of pay. Behind a second door, you get to work at a computer all day and sit in an office with the same level of pay. Which would you choose? We have to make the industry more attractive to young people. It has to be seen as a profession.”
The industry's investment in young people also goes further than simply growing the candidate pool. When students and young professionals learn about new products and technologies, they are on the cutting edge. Their employers and the industry become increasingly competitive. Continued collaboration between producers and associations strengthen this trend.
“Efforts in the past have been splintered,” says Butch Hardy, president of Oldcastle Adams Products in Morrisville, N.C., and a member of the National Concrete Masonry Association's (NCMA) Workforce Development Committee. We're going to have to work together as an industry to have a big enough influence to change minds. It's going to take a large, unified effort.”