Labor Shortage Hitting Local Construction

Even now that the recession is over, millions of Americans are still having trouble finding work. But experts say there’s actually a big labor shortage in the construction industry – and local developers say it’s causing some major headaches.

“We haven’t seen a labor shortage this dramatic since 2001,” says Holly Fraccaro of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties. Speaking Tuesday at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Orange County Development Briefing, she shared the results of a recent survey of home builders nationwide.

“Seventy-four percent (of home builders) reported shortages in rough carpenter sub-contractors, 73 percent in framing crews, 69 percent in finished carpenters, 59 percent in bricklayers and masons – and the list goes on,” she said at Tuesday’s briefing. (The survey was conducted by the National Association of Home Builders.)

And Fraccaro says that shortage is having a big impact on residential and commercial construction.

“Sixty-one percent of the respondents (to the national survey) were forced to raise home prices,” she says. “Fifty-eight percent had significant delays in delivering their homes on schedule, and over a quarter of the respondents reported projects losing money.”

And Chapel Hill is not immune. On Elliott Road, construction has begun on the new Village Plaza apartments – but developer Lee Perry of East West Partners says the labor shortage has already caused delays.

“We were delayed about a month just getting the crane on site,” he says. “That crane just showed up from South Dakota, of all places – that was the closest place we could find a crane to begin the (parking) deck.”

Jobs in the construction business pay well, but Fraccaro says there’s not much in the way of training programs locally: Durham Tech, for instance, offers carpentry courses, but no certification program. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools superintendent Tom Forcella says the district has offered vocational classes at the high school level – but students tend not to take them.

So Fraccaro says the Homebuilders Association is launching its own program: the Construction Careers Building Institute, in conjunction with national and local organizations like the Homebuilders Institute, Skills USA, and El Centro Hispano.

“The institute will provide skills-based apprenticeship training for carpentry, HVAC, electric, plumbing and masonry,” she says. “Eventually we will offer programs for construction site supervision, applied building science, (and) English as a second language, just to name a few.”

Fraccaro says the institute will have a physical home down the road – but if you’re looking for a new career, she says it will start offering programs beginning next fall.

U.S. Labor Sec’y: Funds Needed For Unemployed Vets

CHAPEL HILL – The nationwide unemployment rate is slowly dropping but still high, a trend that also applies to specific demographic groups, including America’s veterans.

Now, with budget season already upon us, Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris says the Obama administration is calling for more than $350 million in additional federal funding for veterans’ services—including several programs designed to get former service members into jobs.

“(The President is) investing an additional $100 million in the U.S. Department of Labor so that we can help these transitioning service members and veterans and their spouses, and National Guard and Reserve, get into good, reliable, middle-class jobs,” Harris said Wednesday on the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.

The President’s proposal includes an extra $38 million for veterans’ employment representatives across the country; a $5 million increase in the federal Transition Assistance Program for veterans exiting active duty; and perhaps most notably, an extra $50 million for the Workforce Innovation Fund.

“This community faces barriers that a lot of other folks don’t face,” says Harris. “A lot of people in the civilian world don’t know what a military occupational specialty prepares you to do in civilian life…so there are a lot of challenges that this community faces.

“We need new ideas…so we’re going to put that money out there, challenge the workforce investment system and community colleges and other enterprises to get in the game (and) help us figure out these problems–and then we’ll scale them up across the country if they’re successful.”

Of course nothing is certain in Washington, especially with an ongoing budget crunch—but as for the politics of it all, Harris says he’s confident the two parties can at least come together around veterans’ affairs.

“My experience in Washington has been that the partisan divide that’s so prominent right now is often traversed…when it comes to helping veterans and transitioning service members and military families,” he says.

At the end of 2012, the overall unemployment rate for veterans was 7.0 percent, down from 8.3 percent in 2011. For post-9/11 vets, the rate was much higher: 9.9 percent in 2012, down from 12.1 percent the previous year.

UNC Turning To “Competency-Based” Approach

CHAPEL HILL – As the UNC system reexamines its strategic goals for the next five years, university officials have turned to employers and business leaders to identify key needs—and the result of that will be a new focus on a novel academic approach called “competency-based learning.”

That’s according to UNC president Tom Ross, who says today’s business leaders want people who can think and communicate effectively for themselves.

“When we talk to people–business leaders and other employers of all types–they tell us what they need more than anything else who can think critically, who can write and communicate orally, who can understand how to use data, how to look at a variety of different disciplinary concerns to solve problems, (and) how to work in teams,” Ross says. “Those are the core ‘competencies’ that employers need.”

More information on “competency-based education” available herehereherehere, andhere. (Online universities have been a driving force in the CBE movement so far–most notably Western Governors University, based in Utah.)

The competency-based learning approach focuses on developing broader, widely-applicable skills—like writing and critical thinking—rather than particular bits of information or specific knowledge about specific jobs. In essence it suggests a return to the liberal arts and a recommitment to developing well-rounded graduates with a strong intellectual core—a task that UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp says has been a strength of the UNC system from the beginning.


And while employers say they need competent workers for jobs right now, Thorp says the real strength of “competency-based learning” is in how it trains students to adapt to the as-yet-unknown jobs of the future.

“If a student is a junior in high school now…by the time they get out (of college) it’s five, six years from now–and the rate of change in the economy right now, with technology and migration, is so fast,” he says. “We need to give students the ability to teach themselves the jobs of the future, because we can’t prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet.”

Right now, the competency-based approach is still in development. Ross says turning to it now will not only benefit today’s students—it’ll also put UNC on the cutting edge of an educational trend that’s only going to become more mainstream in the coming years.

“Really nobody’s doing competency-based education,” he says. “The assessment tools available to look at it are still in development and relatively new. So it’s new territory–but (it’s) ground we need to plow, if we’re going to be a successful university in the future.”

The focus on “competency-based learning” is part of the UNC system’s new five-year strategic plan, which the UNC Board of Governors is currently examining. The Board saw a draft of the plan at their meeting earlier this month; it’s expected to approve the final version in February.

Administrative Professionals Week

Just curious –  will you be celebrating Administrative Professionals Day (April 25) or Week (week of April 23) at  your office?  And if so, how?

The celebration started in 1952 and some say it is “one of the largest workplace observances outside of employee birthdays and major holidays. From the International Association of Administrative Professionals website:

”Admins are one of the engines of business, particularly in a complex economy. In a world that demands the accurate and speedy movement of digital information, admins are masters of data. And they do this while maintaining their more traditional role as the gatekeepers for many customers, clients and employees. Quite simply, admins are the pulse of the office.”

IAAP recommends that employers observe Administrative Professionals Week by providing education and training to administrative staff through seminars, continuing education and self-study materials.

That sounds good.  How about if we add flowers, candy, cookies, lunch, spa treatments and other treats? 
What may be more valuable than anything for many people –  a nice handwritten thank you card or note.

Appreciation can make a day or a life...

Are you observing Administrative Professionals Day/Week?  And if so, how?

Use the Comment section below or send an email to

Want to get ideas from others?  Let me know.

How to Become an Interim Senior Manager

This week’s Art of Potential radio show features an interview with Managing Principal, Vince Papi of Executive Smarts. This is a great show for the senior manager who is is looking for project work, or for job seekers who are laid-off and anxious to work. His no-nonsense advice on the value of networking, resumes, and interviews is fantastic for job seekers of all experience levels.  Following are Vince’s observations on the current job market and strategies for becoming an Interim Manager:
“Many companies are encountering a shortage of senior management talent. Due to recent downsizings they often have very little executive bench strength and so they consider a flexible talent solution–interim managers–as a way to turn around performance, provide temporary leadership for projects, or assist with transitional periods.  For these reasons interim management assignments are a growing career choice, not a temporary employment opportunity for many individuals.
Interim managers bring a breadth of knowledge, experience and relevant best practices to each and every assignment. He or she is generally classified as an energetic, task oriented individual with first class organizational, communication, and diagnostic skills.

In order to be considered for an assignment a person must demonstrate certifiable functional skills in areas that include operations, human resources, technology, supply chain, sales, marketing or finance. They should also have a quantifiable record of achievement and demonstrate flexibility and self-sufficiency.

There are obviously pros and cons to being an interim manager.

On the plus side there is the flexibility of being your own boss, the challenges brought about by dealing with new issues, solutions and people. There is also the benefit of not having to deal with corporate politics.

On the negative side an interim is generally responsible for their own benefits and may be gone from home for extended periods of time. You will also have to be good at marketing yourself directly to potential organizations or interim provider firms such as Executive Smarts.

If you do decide to become an Interim Manager we also recommend that you establish an LLC or similar type of business structure and obtain business insurances to include personal liability and indemnity. You should discuss these with your accountant and/or attorney to ensure that you are properly protected. Also consider establishing a contract that you can use if dealing directly with an organization.”

For more outstanding advice as well as a great window into the current job market be sure to listen to this show on Thursday at 8:00pm or you can download it on, under 1360 WCHL and The Art of Potential show.

Give a Compliment, Throw a Party and Propose – That is How you Get a Job.

  1. Give 10 compliments a day. It may surprise you to learn that even in our worst economics times there are millions of people who would like the opportunity to live and work in the United States. To them this is still a land of opportunity where a person can work their way up. When we forget the perspective our nation was founded upon we may end up feeling entitled and deserving of work. ”I have more experience.” “I have more education.” “I was here first.” When we think this way we are also more likely to blame or be angry at others who are not living up to our expectations. When looking for work, it is important to distance yourself from this negative energy because the only people who will want to be around you are negative ones. Instead find ways to be grateful, find ways to be appreciative, find ways to look at others in the best possible light. Think about other’s instead of yourself. One way to do this is to compliment 10 people per day via email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, in person, or some other way. When you do this you create the positive energy flow that people want to be around and hire. 
  1. Throw a party. 7 out of 10 jobs comes from networking. 70 out of 100 jobs comes from networking. 700 out of 1000 jobs coming from networking. Okay you get the picture. Networking is by far the most successful way to get a job. Often we have people in our network but are uncomfortable letting them know we are looking for work. Throwing a party, starting a book club, joining a tennis team, volunteering at a non-profit – all these things are great ways to make additional connections and increase your network. 
  1. Propose. Instead of waiting for businesses to decide they have a full-time job with benefits, find little ways to help them. If you are good at writing business proposals, organizing files, answering phones, designing websites, or doing other things that businesses need, propose it to them. When you come in as a sub-contractor businesses do not need to pay benefits, or employment taxes. It is best to propose short-term (3 month) concrete jobs. Click here for a template you can use.

Rise and Shine! The Job Market is Primed

Start your engines ladies and gents, the experts tell us the job market is heating up. NC Employment Security Commission reports the state jobless rate was 9.7 percent in April, down from 11.1 percent a year ago. Businesses are coming out of survival mode and embracing their entrepreneurial outlook again.
If you are one of those terrific, hardworking, yet unemployed people there is no better time than now to be working your way into employer’s good graces. While businesses may not be hiring at this moment, they are beginning to show signs of moving in that direction. This past year required belt tightening and delaying non-required purchases. Now businesses are starting to think proactively with a sense of vision and purpose instead of reactively with a sense of doom and gloom.

Interestingly enough many workers have been doing the same, staying put until the market opens up, and this is where things get really exciting! If my friends are any indication (and believe me they are) many employees have been bidding their time until a new job that is more attractive to them comes open. They may want to do something totally different, desire a lifestyle change, or even have a boss whose leadership style they don’t care for. As new employment opportunities opens up, they are going to be leaving their positions and then, of course, their jobs will need to be filled. What does this mean? It means many employers do not even know they are going to be hiring someone new yet but now you do.

While all of these are invisible jobs since they technically don’t exist yet, they are still very real and that is why working your way into employer’s good graces. Being in someone’s good graces merely means that the person thinks highly of you; they respect you enough to hire you themselves or recommend you to a friend. Trust and respect are a form of social capital which can yield very high financial returns. Keep in mind trust and respect are earned. We all know someone whom we are not especially close to but would hire in a minute because we trust and respect that person. We all also know someone else whom we love and adore but would not hire in a million years because that person cannot manage his or her own life let alone a job.

Having hired others I can tell you the first thing all employers do when they have a new job is to go through their internal address book. If they don’t glean any leads then they begin asking their friends if they have any suggestions for someone who would be good to hire. I’ve even seen job opportunities posted on Facebook.

As a job seeker you want to be that person who is immediately considered for an opening or referred by a friend so you have to let people know you are looking for work.

Here is how you do that:

1. Define what you want. The worst thing a job seeker can do is have no ambition, no chutzpah, no fire in their belly. Even Snooki has fire and if Snooki has it, honey you do too. Example: What do I want? I want a job researching medicines that will help cure malaria and while I’m at it, I want to loose 25 pounds, win the lottery, and marry George Clooney. The truth is you can want anything but for our purposes at least just answer the part about your career ambitions.

2. Identify your network. It used to be thought that people where connected by seven degrees of separation or in overachiever’s like Kevin Bacon’s case, only six degrees were necessary. With technology that number is rapidly dwindling. Websites like linkedin and facebook allow you to see the bios of friends of friends. Research as far back as the 70’s has shown that one to two degrees of separation, the friend of a friend, or the so called ‘weak link’ is the most likely person to provide you with a viable job lead. So feel free to unleash your inner stalker and check out the publicly posted bios of your friend’s friends and no, you do not need to see a picture of their house or check their credit score.

3. Win friends and influence people. The official title is actually How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and it is definitely more important than any book you ever read in high school or college. Sorry Shakespeare. There is good reason it is one of the best selling books of all time – it teaches you to be nice, think of others first, and start great conversations – something school does not. Read it – practice it – live it and do not proceed to step 4 until you do.

4. Develop your personal pitch. While I know you are fabulous because I’m psychic, not everyone else does yet. You need to let people know you are super competent and looking for work but without being mistaken for an incoming missile because of your intensity. Avoid saying things like “My name is Kristin, I am fabulous, I once made millions of dollars but then the economy tanked and now I desperately looking for work because I’m broke. My car is about to be repossessed so I won’t be able to drive anywhere. Do you know anyone who will hire me pronto?” And instead go with something more delicate like “Hi, my name is Kristin, what is yours?” and let the conversation flow from there. You can work in phrases like “I’m in a career transition and keeping an eye out for opportunities in medical research. Tell me more about you…..” as the conversation emerges. No one needs to know your private struggles except your therapist.

5. Get Connected. Shockingly people won’t come looking to hire you; they are too busy working and therefore need for you to find them. Now that you are a social genius from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (yes you must!) and have a personal pitch that you can work into a conversation get out there and strut your stuff. Ask your friend for an introduction to those people you’ve been silently stalking on-line. Go to meet and greets like the ones hosted by the Chapel Hill Chambers of Commerce monthly called Business Before or After Hours, attend church, go to the bar, take a quilting classes, start a book club, or my personal favorite – host a party! Basically you should go anywhere that reasonably intelligent people gather and be your awesome, confident self.

6. Persevere. Once people see how terrific you are they are going to want to hire you and if they don’t, someone else will. There is a job for everyone and all you need is one.

Here are some things you should not do to find a job:
1. play computer games
2. take up fly fishing
3. watch more than one hour of TV per day
4. research jobs on the computer for more than one hour per day (I promise those posted jobs are being filled by someone who is out there networking)
5. numb yourself with drugs and alcohol.
6. nothing

Networking is not about using people, it is about connecting with people. Remember that all sustainable relationships must be built on trust and great networkers are highly trusted because they demonstrate a high degree of personal integrity.

During this year we are going to be exploring various facets of personal integrity since it is the cornerstone to success, happiness, and fulfillment. To me integrity simply means the integration of character, passions, and actions all working together for a common purpose. Visually I think of a rope with many strands, the more strands, or aspects of yourself, working together, the stronger the rope. I know you have many assets and look forward to exploring those with you. Next month we will discover how to integrate our bodacious creativity in Ode to Joy!

Scholarship Programs for Education… What Do They Mean To A Community in Today?

As I was reading a recent blog post regarding budget cuts to the UNC system in the area of 15 percent equating to an estimated $75 million and the quality of education for 222,000 students in North Carolina I applaud any organization in today’s economy offering scholarship programs for education!! Gone are the days we can take for granite benefits offered via our employers, including health insurance, and I am fortunate to work with an organization that believes in its employees enough to continue the Scholarship Program for Education during the tough economy we are all experiencing.

I have a son in college at NC A&T and I am thankful I don’t have two kids in college at the same time as do many parents in this area. I am counting the semesters til graduation in May 2012 and you will probably be able to hear my shouts of joy all the way from Greensboro to Chapel Hill! To have $500-$2,000 reduced from your budget for education and student loans as a student and parent is note worthy and I look forward to my one year of service in order to apply also.

Retired seniors in Chatham County are making sure the multigenerational workforce is able to achieve the American dream with post secondary education. By donating $15,700 Chatham County residents supported a local scholarship and education program offering thirteen scholarships to deserving applicants. What an amazing way to “pay it forward” in today’s economy and continue your philanthropic efforts by giving to such a great cause. Education is critical in making the difference in providing for our families and we applaud those who believe in making a difference.

Beatrice Runyan, Director of Human Resource at a local nonprofit stated, “The Employee Scholarship Program is just one additional way organizations can recognize and reward good employees and help encourage their continued education.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think of the budget cuts?