By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
The Associated General Contractors of Missouri and other St. Louis organizational partners are serious about recruiting more individuals into its construction training schools and into the construction trades. Evidence of this is the AGCMO Education Foundation’s own recruitment of a former union laborer and social worker who is now serving as the construction careers outreach manager.
Sergio Munoz, 63, a native of La Paz, Bolivia and a first-generation American, is working full-time for the new Construction Careers Center in St. Louis, connecting workers with job opportunities.
“There are too many barriers to entry for these displaced workers,” said Munoz, referring to the urban unemployed and minorities, who are seeking to restart their lives and their careers. “Part of my job is to evaluate their skill level, point them down the right path and help them make the right connections. Sometimes all someone needs is that first break,” he added.
Educating a broad swath of the general population about the opportunities available to those who choose to work in the construction trades is a top priority for Munoz and others working in recruiting the future trades workforce. “We need to elevate the image of construction workers,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do with that.”
Working the job fairs is a big part of what Munoz and partners are doing. They’re interacting with hundreds of potential construction trades workers via large employment events such as the NGA West Job Training Fair sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Building Union Diversity (BUD) program is another active partner organization in the St. Louis-wide effort to guide and train more qualified individuals, and to make a construction career accessible to them.
Paul Smith, vice president of workforce development for the Education Foundation, said guiding potential apprenticeship candidates through the job search process is crucial.
“Oftentimes when a potential candidate does not satisfy the requirements of one particular program, he or she is not aware of other construction-related opportunities in which he or she may meet the requirements,” Smith said. “One-on-one, individualized support is needed to help guide candidates through the process. Placing construction trades candidates in the training program that best matches their needs and skills – and supporting them through the process – is our goal. We’re glad to have Sergio at the helm,” he added.