Two champions of the Northern Nevada building trades—Michelle Abel, journeyman electrician and union organizer at IBEW Local 401, and Rob Benner, business representative at the Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada—sat down with local radio host Cheri Hill on Thursday, February 14 to talk shop about local construction growth, the changing definition of higher education, what career success really means, and why skilled workforce development is critical to the future of our region.
“If we can’t build it, they can’t come,” said Benner of the skilled workforce shortage that stands to put the brakes on unprecedented growth in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area. “It doesn’t matter how attractive Nevada is to business, it doesn’t matter what incentives we offer—if we can’t build the facilities these companies need, they won’t be able to move here. And if they can’t move here, then we don’t get the data center jobs, we don’t get the advanced manufacturing jobs.”
Filling that need requires educating everyone from graduating high school students to parents and educators to local community and political leaders to the job-seeking public about paid apprenticeship programs in local building and construction trades, most of which allow apprentices to earn free college credits—even full associate degrees—while in the program, but without the burden of student debt that often comes with higher education.