The letter below was written by Zach Fields, the Director of School Relations at CEFGA, in regards to the new K12 Pipeline.

As many are aware, our construction industry is facing a dire shortage of skilled workers coming into the trades. Our craftsmen are reaching retirement age and the lifetime of knowledge and skill that were once handed down from generation to generation are on the verge of vanishing with no one in the pipeline to carry them on. We have a problem with the very foundation of our industry. We are long overdue for properly investing in our workforce. We've go to fix the foundation.

It is commonly noted that we have 1 worker entering the industry for every 4 that are leaving. Specifically, in Georgia, we are facing a shortfall of 60,000 craft workers by 2019. I assure you that is a conservative estimate that does not even take into account those nearing retirement. Where are our workers going to come from? They are all currently in one place. The public-school classroom.

This is what the K12 Pipeline is all about. We know where our entire future workforce is and we must train them and recruit them while they are in our public schools. If we only wait until they are 18, then they will scatter and we will only catch a few. Look no further than the average age of enrollment in our Technical Colleges. It is 28 years old. We call this the "lost decade". The K12 Pipeline Initiative aims to transform our public-school systems into direct feeders to the construction industry. With your involvement in the K12 Pipeline, we can make sure that our training programs are healthy and relevant to industry needs. The K12 model has been established in North Fulton with a full feeder system of an elementary school and two middle schools which all feed a single high school program. Other systems are getting on board and this is getting ready to spread quickly. We do not have a better opportunity to engage than right now.

We are fortunate to be witnessing the resurgence of technical/vocational training in our schools. Many more school systems are opening new Career and Technical Education programs but we are competing against other industries for the same young workers. CEFGA is on the front lines working very hard to make sure that construction is at the table when these new programs open state-wide. Because of the advocacy work of the K12 Pipeline, the state Senate is introducing SB3 as a Senate Priority that will vastly increase the number of students state-wide earning industry credentials. It is also a great step towards placing industry teams in every single high school construction and metals program over the next three years. Local industry teams will be vetting program training to ensure that it relevant to the needs for building a skilled workforce. This will also increase ties from local programs to local industry.

Student employment numbers will increase as a result. Students from the K12 Pipeline have already had a substantial impact with ABC member companies. Sam Vad Ede out of the Roswell High Construction program has been a great asset to WS Nielsen. Because of [WS Nielsen's] early involvement with him, he will likely consider employment with [them] upon graduation. Adam Ricketts out of Kennesaw Mountain made a great impression with Penco Electric. "Adam is doing a great join and we are thankful to have him."--President Kristen Williams. Adam also received high praise from Penco Superintendent Mitchell Williams at the ABC Chili-Cookoff. There are many more out there like this. The K12 Pipeline is going on offense. At this year's Career Expo, we are coordinating a state-wide student employment event with the 6,000+ students in attendance. We will have a resume on every competitor and a student employment center operating on the Expo floor. K12 Pipeline partners will get the best that we have in the state.

Our feeder programs are government funded and simply need to be industry subsidized. First and foremost, CEFGA has to expand its dedicated staff to truly engage all 158 programs in the state, continue planting new ones through the K12 system, and coordinate student/graduate employment in the construction industry. CEFGA cannot sustain the necessary staffing off of funding received from the public education sector. It does not even pay for a full staff member. Therefore, I ask that industry support these efforts. The entire future workforce of skilled tradespeople are sitting in those classrooms. They are a captive audience and that is where we must go to get them. CEFGA has to be the place where our fragmented industry comes together to fix the issues that threaten us all. I humbly ask that you support the K12 Pipeline Initiative so that we may work full-time on your behalf to ensure a trained and sustainable entry-level workforce.

Zach Fields
Director of School Relations, CEFGA