Minnesota’s construction industry has a labor shortage. Here’s what it’s doing about it.

A group of construction-industry representatives have formed an organization to help solve its labor shortage.

Several industry groups and private businesses quietly launched Project Build Minnesota earlier this year that’s sending out a battle cry to inspire a new generation of people to work in the construction industry.

The industry needs it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 250,000 unfilled jobs in the field nationally.

The larger issue that Project Build Minnesota wants to chip away at is a cultural one that affects other employment sectors. Labor jobs — in construction, manufacturing and other trades — are not roles that parents and teachers have encouraged kids to get into. In recent years, many classes like drafting and wood shop have been cut from schools as those institutions were judged on how many of their students go on to get four-year degrees, said David Siegel, executive director of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, which is part of Project Build Minnesota.

“We’ve just got to get these kids thinking about construction,” he said.

The organization has a board of directors with nine people, though about 30 to 40 people from across the state have committed their time and energy to help with Project Build Minnesota in some way, Siegel said. Its funding has come from private businesses and individuals. Its budget for 2018 is $175,000, which goes mostly to marketing and its executive director, Dennis Medo, who is working on all things Project Build Minnesota each day.

Medo said the organization is targeting people who are 14 to 22 years old, as well as returning veterans, college dropouts and parents whose children are exploring career interests. All are good candidates who might think of the construction industry, or trades in general, as a career path.

So far this year, Medo and Project Build Minnesota participants have been working on marketing materials, creating a website and coming up with a strategy to reach its target audiences. Medo said some places it plans to go are county fairs across the state, parent groups, networking events, career fairs and high schools, where they can talk to counselors and youth directly, perhaps at a booth set up in a cafeteria during lunch.

But Medo and Siegel say this is a problem that doesn’t have a quick solution. In fact, Siegel estimates it will be about two years before the industry starts to see more people working in the field.

“This is not an overnight deal,” he said. “I wish it was.”

These are the nine board members of Project Build Minnesota and the groups behind it:

  • David Siegel, executive director of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, which represents homebuilders
  • Robert Heise, president of the Minnesota/North Dakota chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., which represents industrial and commercial construction companies
  • Tom Getzke, executive director of the Minnesota Builders Exchange, a Minneapolis-based trade association that helps commercial construction companies find and bid on projects
  • Stu Thompson, CEO of The Builders Group, an Eagan-based self-insured workers’ compensation fund that operates like a co-op and serves commercial and residential construction companies in Minnesota
  • Lowell Pratt, owner of homebuilder Pratt Homes
  • Cory Nuernberg, president of the Northwest Lumber Association, which represents lumber retailers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Upper Michigan
  • Jessica Freeseman, project manager at Shingobee, a commercial construction and development company based in Loretto
  • Jake Bauer, president of the Carciofini Co., a Burnsville-based business that installs sealants and coatings for commercial construction projects
  • John Eischen, who represents Rochester Area Builders Inc. and the Builders Exchange of Rochester