While the construction industry may be booming and the need for new buildings and structures has increased, the workforce needed to complete those projects has decreased considerably. In fact, workforce shortages remain one of the single most significant threats to the construction industry today.
A significant part of the problem is the lack of interest from younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, to work in construction despite the surplus of well-paying positions and low-cost or free education and training. In many high schools and colleges around the U.S., four-year degrees and white-collar jobs are emphasized over skilled labor training, with certain vocational programs being cut altogether. A staggering 80 percent of U.S. construction firms are having trouble hiring talent, and the trend is predicted to worsen.
The current state of the construction industry was one of the key motivators behind The UP Companies (UPCO) of St. Louis releasing a parody song and music video of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, appropriately named “Old Construction Road” featuring international hip hop artist Howard “Chingy” Bailey, Jr.
UPCO, one of the region’s largest full-service MBE-certified contracting companies offering all-inclusive and convenient solutions for general contractors, owners and facility management professionals, consists of Power UP Electrical Contractors, Square UP Builders and Hustle UP Laborers. These three distinct business units have each felt the effects of workforce shortages on their projects. In order to recruit new talent for job openings at its three divisions, UPCO decided that it needed a fun and innovative way to attract the next generation of worker.
“We wanted to do a unique project that establishes The UP Companies as an industry leader who is not afraid to have fun and take risks to get the job done,” said UPCO President Michael B. Kennedy, Jr. “We also wanted to create awareness among potential employees, particularly minorities, that we are the premier destination for careers and to motivate them to consider working for us.”
Back in August while Kennedy was traveling on vacation, like much of the country, he could not get the hit song “Old Town Road” out of his head. During his flight, inspiration struck, and he found himself writing his own lyrics to the popular song with words related to construction and UPCO. Shortly thereafter, “Old Construction Road” was born.
Upon returning home to St. Louis, Kennedy enlisted close friend and well-known rapper Chingy to help produce the song. Chingy grew up in St. Louis and began writing music at age 7. His debut album “Jackpot” sold three million copies in 2003 and featured hit singles “Right Thurr”, “One Call Away” and “Holidae Inn”. Chingy would go on to record more albums throughout his career, making him an international recording artist with 50 million records sold worldwide. He is currently on the “Millenium Tour” and plans to release a new album in March 2020.
Chingy organized the recording session for “Old Construction Road” as well as lent his voice talents to a key verse in the song. Kennedy sings several verses, while the hook and chorus are sung by Square UP employee Cornelius Blanks. A music video featuring the trio and other UPCO employees was produced soon after through St. Louis-based video production company Unbridled Media and released to the public on December 20.
Chingy, who started the Chingy For Change Foundation to educate inner-city children on how to become positive leaders in their communities, said he was happy to help Kennedy with his unique project that gives minorities and young people a life changing, positive career path.
“I got involved with the project to bring awareness to the opportunity that the construction industry is providing for everyday people who are looking for work. UPCO is providing job opportunities to folks in need who want to work and better themselves,” said Chingy. “With me, it’s always about helping and healing. I do things out of love and compassion, so I am excited to be a part of this project and touching lives one at a time.”
In an effort to provide workforce shortage solutions and address the immediate need for staffing, The UP Companies is working on plans for a job fair in March 2020 at its offices at 2060 Craigshire Road in Maryland Heights, Missouri. Representatives from each of the UPCO service lines, Associated General Contractors of Missouri (AGCMO) and various local labor unions will be available to discuss opportunities with interested jobseekers. Applicants will also get the chance to meet the stars of the “Old Construction Road” video, Chingy, Cornelius Blanks and, of course, UPCO President Michael B. Kennedy.
Leonard Toenjes, president of AGCMO, an association dedicated to serving the construction industry and providing solutions for the workforce shortage said, “AGC of Missouri has been working at every level to help everyone in our community. AGCMO has staff and volunteers working with high schools, career and technical education schools, community-based organizations, workforce boards, career days and project owners to get out the word.”
AGCMO recently created a website, Build Your Future – Build Missouri at https://missouri.byf.org, that provides specific entry information for construction careers 24/7, plus the organization has a very active scholarship program to help those who need financial support to be successful in construction.
“The construction industry offers great career opportunities for anyone who gains satisfaction from seeing the results of their work every day,” said Toenjes. “Construction industry careers have many personal and financial benefits for anyone willing to build their future.”
For more information about a career in construction, visit The UP Companies at www.theupcompanies.com; AGCMO at www.agcmo.org; Build Your Future – Build Missouri at https://missouri.byf.org; St. Louis – Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council at www.carpdc.org; Associated Electrical Contractors Local Union 57 – St. Louis at https://www.carpdc.org/Training/Schools/AECLU57JAP; Painters District Council 58 at http://www.dc58iupat.net/; and Laborers Local 42 at https://www.liuna42stl.com/.