Haslam Launches 'Go Build Tennessee'

A year after he signed the enabling legislation into law, Gov. Bill Haslam joined construction industry leaders Wednesday in launching a marketing campaign called "Go Build Tennessee" to encourage high school students to consider careers in the building trades.

Tennessee is the third state with a similar program, following Alabama, where it began in 2010, and Georgia, in 2012. It uses an array of media, public relations and outreach efforts targeting students as early as junior high to consider careers as boilermakers, carpenters, electricians, electric linemen, equipment operators, iron workers, masons, plumbers and pipe fitters, road builders, sheet metal workers, welders and other trades.

Haslam said that for every five skilled tradesmen about to retire, only one new worker is in the, education, training and apprenticeship pipeline to replace them. And he said the construction industry is expected to grow 22 percent over the next decade.

"For anybody who’s seen the growth happening in Nashville and across the state, the challenge for us is … across all the different aspects of construction," the governor said. "What we hope this effort will do is help young people know, ‘hey that’s a great career opportunity for me and something I should think seriously about’ because it’s a realistic career path that can provide a great occupation."

State lawmakers in 2015 approved the "Go Build Tennessee Act," creating a nonprofit corporation and board to run the program and diverting about $3 million in surplus contractor-licensing fees collected by the state into the program, over the next three years to pay for it. The bill was proposed and lobbied by the Tennessee Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors of Tennessee, the Home Builders Association of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Road Builders Association.

Haslam signed it into law on May 20, 2015. The act also requires the program to be audited and the audits presented to the state comptroller and the commissioner of labor and workforce development.

The program does not create any new education, training and apprenticeship programs but rather promotes the existing programs and makes it easier for anyone considering skilled-trades jobs to locate and connect to them — including those at the state’s colleges of applied technology and community colleges.

Joining Haslam at the State Capitol to launch the effort were Bob Woods, president and CEO of Go Build, the umbrella organization for the state programs, and David Stansell, president of Nashville’s Stansell Electric Company and of Go Build Tennessee. Woods was executive director of Alabama Workforce Development Initiative when Alabama created the program.

Woods called Go Build a "sustained public relations campaign" that also targets students’ "influencers — parents, teachers, counselors, coaches — those people who influence young people to make decisions about their careers."

The Go Build Tennessee website allows students and others to examine specific skilled trade jobs, average salaries, training requirements for each trade and the training and apprenticeship opportunities available in Tennessee for each.

"Go build is about image enhancement and recruiting individuals into training, Woods said. "It’s a terrible perception we have regarding the construction craft trades, a tremendous lack of knowledge, and this program is all about communicating about the craft trades and changing the perception people have about that profession."

Stansell said, "The jobs are already there and the apprenticeship programs are already there. The issue we have is not enough students going through school seeing this as a viable career opportunity, and so the point of Go Build is to make them aware of it — to see the pay opportunities. Most people don’t realize how much people in the trades actually earn and that it’s really a great career for a lot of people."

This article appears courtesy of The Tennessean.

NewsGrant Prettyman