Aggregates Industry Faces Workforce Shortage

Written by Alyssa Burley.

The construction aggregates industry is facing a shortage in its workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median age for someone working in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries was 41.5 in 2014. Younger generations are not entering the industry like they used to. As a result, the issue is becoming a common topic of concern throughout the industry.

In late March 2016, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) announced the launch of its new online job board in a press release on its website. The job board is designed to allow NSSGA members to advertise the “good-paying, highly-skilled jobs available around the country,” in an effort to attract new employees to the industry, according to NSSGA president Michael W. Johnson. NSSGA’s members are facing a shortage of employees and yet, “operators employ scientists, mechanics, equipment operators and engineers at all levels.” The association is planning to launch a mainstream media campaign that highlights the diverse career opportunities within this industry.

Pit & Quarry magazine’s March 2016 issue touches on the workforce shortage in its “Bridging the Gap” article that covers how Project Cornerstone, Inc., an educational nonprofit organization, serves as a connection between the community and the local construction aggregates industry. The article quotes Eric Inouye, the plant manager of Hanson’s Santee Quarry as saying, the aggregates industry is “one of those industries that nobody really sees anymore, especially in the newer generation of kids, where technology is really becoming the forefront.” Through school field trips to the quarry, Hanson, with Project Cornerstone’s help, is reintroducing a vital industry to the next generation of potential employees.

The California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA) has an online job board and includes the listings in its weekly newsletter. In the May 9, 2016 issue, there were 47 job postings. The jobs range greatly in experience and skills, from mineral process engineer, director of finance and human resources, to foreman and weighmaster.

In March and April 2016, Project Cornerstone participated in three career and college fairs in San Diego County. Project Cornerstone was there to promote the wide range of career opportunities within the aggregates industry. At their booth, they displayed information on sand, gravel, and finished concrete and asphalt products. A steady stream of eager students visited the booth and asked questions about the display. Many had never thought about the aggregates industry as a possible career path, let alone ever heard about it before the career and college fair. At a middle school, Project Cornerstone presented a variety of careers within the industry to the entire sixth grade. After the presentation, the booth was flooded with students interested in careers and the concrete making activity Project Cornerstone was offering. Students are excited about the aggregates industry when it is presented to them as an option. They like the hands-on careers and that it is part of the foundation of their communities.

The aggregates industry is hiring. And, it is about time younger generations are aware of it. If we don’t reach out to younger generations, it’s only going to become harder to find quality employees in the future. That is why Project Cornerstone is working with various Career Technical Education (CTE) coordinators to incorporate aggregates, concrete, masonry, and asphalt education into local high school CTE programs. CTE programs are designed to teach high school students the skills they need in order to successfully join the workforce upon high school graduation, and/or prepare students for college programs in their chosen industry.

Project Cornerstone is bringing the aggregates industry to the fore front of viable career options for students. The organization is connecting the aggregates industry with schools, and facilitating in-class activities, field trips, guest speakers, and internships. Getting aggregates and related fields included in the local CTE programs is the first step in developing a skilled workforce ready to work in the aggregates industry.

These are not just jobs; these are well-paying, highly important, and respected careers. Let’s promote the industry and get our younger generations excited about all that it has to offer.

Alyssa Burley is the Community Outreach and Marketing Manager at EnviroMINE, Inc.