Builder’s EV center addresses big need

Ethan Covington measures a pipe fitting in a training jig at McCarthy Building Companies’ new Innovation and Craft Workforce Center. (David Minton/Tribune Staff Photographer)

There’s been a severe labor shortage that has caused delays to building projects around the nation and St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Companies is doing something about it with its first Innovation and Craft Workforce Center in West Chandler.

The $10 million investment is meant to help train future workers, bringing more electricians, carpenters, plumbers and others into the workforce.

“We noticed the same deficiency in craft workers and the gap between what the overall need is in the local market, and the supply of workers,” said Eric Fields, the vice president of operations for the company.“

“So we wanted to create a space that we could attract that talent that might not be interested in the construction industry, have a space to be able to train them, to give them the skills they need to pursue a career in construction.”

The new training center is partnering with East Valley Institute of Technology to expose young people to possible careers in the construction field.

Fields said ideally these new workers will be hired by McCarthy, but that if they decide to go to a different company, so be it.

“It’s not a selfish thing, we want to just generate momentum for the industry,” Fields said. “We have a lot of peer companies that we work with, and we want them to be just as successful as we are.

“But there’s a shortage of 4,000 workers – not all of those need to go to McCarthy.”

Fields says many of their new trainees respond to job listings. They will take someone who has no experience and pay them $19 an hour to start.

The first step is to teach them the safety habits they need for their jobs. That happens in the new training center with the Safe Start classes.

Then, they can expect to work with experienced workers in whatever field they are learning for a few years.

“That’s kind of individual based, but we follow a typical four-year apprenticeship program,” Fields said.

“If you’re coming to us as a green individual with no experience, usually it’s about four years to get through to get all the knowledge you can before we’d send you out on their own. But, some people develop faster than others.”

He said they are flexible, so if someone starts out as a plumber, but soon learns they don’t like that, they can switch to something else.

“We can help foster that transition into the different trades that they might be more passionate about,” Fields said.

“I’m big on wanting to put people in roles that they’re passionate about, because we usually get better results. And so helping folks find that right career path is definitely something we’re trying to do.”

EVIT students were at the center the first week of March. Fields said they had the class work with the integrated design and delivery team, led by architects, working on a virtual 3D model.

“Then our self perform teams take that model, and break it up into their individual things, you can generate fabrication sheets, those fabrication sheets are then manufactured in our prefab facilities,” Fields said.

“So those students were learning that and then taking one of the fabrication sheets and generating a hands-on activity related to a built-in wall roughed in for a plumbing fixture.”

McCarthy is spending a lot of money to attract and train new workers.

“I think you’ll start to see some of these pop up around the country in other McCarthy regions, and probably see other industry partners generating facilities like this to help with that overall demand,” Fields said.

“It’s not just McCarthy that has the need. Definitely want to attract the best talent, then train them and retain them.”