If an industry wants to onboard more workers, one solid strategy for doing so is to increase pay and eliminate barriers to joining the industry. For several years now, it’s been no secret that Indiana has seen a shortage of qualified construction candidates. Highway construction is one particular subcategory that has notably struggled. That’s something the state has been actively working to change.
Over the last few months, officials have started several initiatives aimed at making highway employment more attractive to new people. There is now a new option for free training for those that haven’t been exposed to construction, and better starting pay for those who sign on.
Indiana is projected to have over 140,000 construction job openings overall by 2026.
For road work, the state will need to fill an estimated 19,000 highway construction positions by 2028. (Source: INDOT, Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation, 2021)
Free Training for Freeway Work
As you’ve likely noticed when driving lately, highway construction is happening at historic levels in Indiana. At the same time, builders have been challenged to find qualified workers to meet the demand.
Based on current projections, Indiana will need to fill an estimated 19,000 highway construction industry positions by 2028.
To help bridge the gap, INDOT and the Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation (ICRF) recently launched a first-of-its-kind partnership to bring Hoosiers cost-free training for careers in the highway and road construction industry. The logic here is that greater access to training will help more people, perhaps unacquainted with construction, have the confidence to pursue a career in the sector.
“Often people are hesitant to pursue jobs in construction because they don’t feel they’re qualified or don’t have the right employer connections,” Chris Price, ICRF President said. “BY Roads removes those obstacles by providing people the skills, confidence and connections they need to pursue work in highway construction.”
The new “BY Roads” program will use a nationally recognized construction curriculum to provide students with opportunities to learn directly from industry professionals. From there, they can transition to high-paying jobs in highway construction.
Students that complete BY Roads will earn NCCER Core, OSHA-10 Certifications, and receive hands-on training in many aspects of highway construction safety, including things like heavy equipment identification, excavation math, crane safety, and emergency procedures. They’ll also earn decent money. Typical starting wages are $19 per hour or higher.
By Roads is an 11-week program focused on skills and safety. Classes will be held in the evenings twice a week. The program is free to students, thanks to funding made available through INDOT. Additional supportive service funding has been made available to eliminate student barriers.
Additionally, the mid-point in By Roads involves a hiring fair where students will have the opportunity to gain employment with the program’s hiring partners before moving forward to complete the second half of their training.
Increasing Entry Level Salary Caps
In another move to entice more people into construction jobs, INDOT made moves this summer to increase compensation for entry level pay for skilled trades positions throughout the agency’s activities.
Highway workers will see an increase, in addition to several other construction industry related positions. INDOT has a variety of career opportunities within its skilled trades positions, such as highway maintenance technicians, heavy equipment operators, fleet and equipment mechanics, construction inspectors, traffic signal technicians, construction project managers, and others.
The new starting pay for entry level positions will be $20.00 per hour for people with a valid CDL (commercial driver’s license) and $19.00 per hour for those without a CDL. Positions previously started at $16 per hour and there was no baseline increase associated with obtaining the CDL.
Also, candidates have an option to get their commercial license for free. INDOT will pay for CDL training (within 90 days of employment), and employees who obtain a valid CDL will begin earning the additional $1 per hour.
The department has also been touting its benefits package, which includes a 37.5-hour work week, paid holidays, vacation, personal, and sick time. Throughout this summer and continuing, INDOT will be hosting hiring fairs at various locations throughout the state in an effort to increase its recruitment.
Turning Some Heads
Indiana needs more workers, so it’s doing its best to offer more to folks that could be a good fit. The opportunity for free professional training is going to open the door for a lot of people to enter the highway construction industry. Plus, greater pay will be like a friendly wave inviting them in. These are great ways to turn some heads and get people focused on the outstanding careers available today, and the foreseeable future.