Workforce workshop identifies lack of housing, childcare as obstacles to growth

The Humboldt Development Authority (HDA) and the Nevada Builders Alliance (NBA) hosted a Workforce Development Initiative Workshop in Winnemucca May 15. The focus of the workshop was to brainstorm ideas to recruit and train workers for the construction trades. The Nevada office of USDA, Rural Development, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and community, education, and business leaders also attended the half day long workshop. 

Aaron West of Nevada Builders Alliance CEO Aaron West kicked off the workshop by talking about the dire need for construction labor. “As you know, the construction industry is struggling for labor,” he said. “Working with the state we calculated we need about 130,000 construction workers state-wide within the next five years.”

West said the challenge is coming from the construction boom in Las Vegas. He said there is about $20 million in construction work under way in the Las Vegas area. West said one of the best ways to combat the shortage is to get creative with how the industry recruits and trains workers. 

The other avenue for the industry is to tap into children and young adults’ interest in the construction and building trades. 

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the schools in the last few years and it’s pretty frustrating. We have a K12 system that is, for the most part, built on sending 100% of our kids to college.” West told the group of about 25 people that the number of graduating seniors who go on to college is about 26%.

Unfortunately, West said, a lot of the students who go to college don’t know what they want to do so they take the path of least resistance. He said that last year UNR and UNLV graduated 700 students with a degree in psychology but there were 30 jobs available to graduates “whereas we needed 1,200 teachers and got half of that, and 500 engineers and we got half of that.”

The NBA and the USDA Rural Development are currently exploring a workforce development pilot project in Humboldt County to develop, attract, retain and train potential workers for the primary jobs in construction and service sectors in anticipation of future growth.  

In anticipating future workforce needs, Humboldt Development Authority Economic Developer Jan Morrison sent surveys out to employers to assess their need for labor.  Morrison estimates there will be over 1,000 new primary jobs and an additional thousand for supporting jobs in the community coming into the area in the next five years. As a consequence, to the increased labor force, there will be a need for residential and commercial building to accommodate the growth. 

In addition to a labor shortage, the group identified a number of obstacles includes the lack of housing and the lack of childcare.

Morrison said that the current (May 15) housing inventory was under 50 homes available for sale. “In a healthy market, we should have 150 … [and] until you have homes being built you don’t have apartments available because people have no place to move.”

Dawn Baldwin, Branch Manager of Nevada State Bank said, “I think as a working mom a huge challenge that this town has is childcare [and] I have a very small workforce in my branch of six people but I find that is a huge hiring issue as people say ‘I don’t have childcare.”

The workshop group sees entrepreneurs stepping in to fill the gap for childcare and other services future workers will need. 

The ultimate goal is to make everyone — from kids exploring future careers to the older adult who needs to upgrade skills — aware of the resources and opportunities available to them.