One of the things that keeps contractors up at night is worrying about where their next qualified hire is going to come from.
The shortage of skilled workers in the trades is severe and getting worse. Seventy percent of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
And if Congress ever does approve a much-needed infrastructure package, the need will be even greater.
We in the trades can hope parents will stop pushing the necessity of a four-year degree to every child, regardless of interest or qualifications, but there are more practical measures we can take in the meantime.
Last year, Viega LLC launched the Viega Trades Education Network (VTEN) to boost the ranks and skills of students studying the design, installation and function of plumbing and hydronic systems. Viega is partnering with trade schools, community colleges and the UA in the United States and Canada to subsidize and provide training on mechanical systems.
VTEN is about providing a better education for those already enrolled and supporting the schools and instructors that are training the next generation of workers. Like all educational institutions, these schools don’t have the budgets and resources to deliver everything they’d like to give their students.
As members of VTEN, schools get comprehensive curriculum modules that easily integrate into existing programs. The modules include Hydronics 101, Piping & Controls, Radiant Design, Trades Math, Blueprint Reading, CAD and BIM, and more. In addition, Viega provides functional demonstration units supported by lesson plans and projects and a complete tooling package.
Educators receive admission to an annual VTEN conference in Colorado or New Hampshire, including hotel, airfare, food and admission; Viega and direct vendor support of BlueVolt® eLearning platform; hands-on tool demonstrations and LoopCAD® license options and instructor training.
The LoopCAD package includes on-site orientation to the network and a Zoning Demonstration Board and Mixing Demonstration Board to give students hands-on experience in troubleshooting systems.
And, of course, VTEN offers credentialed classes for Viega products, including ProPress® and MegaPress®.
But the program doesn’t stop there. Schools also receive a RIDGID® RP-340 tool or Milwaukee M18® Force Logic Press Tool with a set of jaws for metal and PEX, as well as samples of various types of pipe and couplings for each student.
The first students in VTEN will graduate soon and we welcome them to the ranks of the trades. We invite other companies to follow suit and join us in building the workforce of the future.
Lino Santoro is Viega Trades Education Network (VTEN) Manager.