Blog Posts

Erland / The Importance of Getting into the Trades

By Tom Blesso, SVP, Management/Operations Support & Dan James, VP, General Superintendent
Featuring Bryan McGrath, Director of Student Life & Career Services at the North Bennet Street School & Steven R. Sullivan, Director of Workforce Development for the Associated Builders and Contractors, Massachusetts Chapter (ABC MA)

Today, 89 percent of contractors have trouble finding skilled workers. In fact, 83 percent of general contractors say the skilled labor shortage is making it difficult to meet deadlines. Some are turning down new projects because they don’t have the capacity to get the work done. People are not pursuing careers in the trades like they used to. In high schools across the country, there is an emphasis on the 4-year college route. Other options, like trade school, aren’t presented in the same way. A recent survey of adults aged 18 to 25 shows that only 3 percent intend to pursue a career in construction (Hughes-Barnes, H., 2021). 

As a result, today only 9 percent of the construction workforce is aged 16 to 24, while the average age of construction workers is 47. And an aging workforce presents challenges of its own. Baby boomers are starting to retire, creating an even larger gap in the labor force. By 2026, 29 percent of the current construction workforce is expected to retire. By 2031, that number is expected to rise to 41 percent (Hughes-Barnes, H., 2021). If this crisis continues, we can expect higher construction costs, a lower quality of work, lengthier schedules, limited resources, and an increased potential for unsafe working conditions. 37 percent of contractors also said that labor shortages have raised the costs of bids and contracts (Trimble, 2020). This cannot continue, and how we proceed with the next generation of workers will shape the future of the industry.

We recently interviewed Bryan McGrath, Director of Student Life & Career Services at the North Bennet Street School and Steven R. Sullivan, Director of Workforce Development for the Associated Builders and Contractors, Massachusetts Chapter (ABC MA) for their take on the importance of getting into the trades.

North Bennet Street School is America's oldest trade school college, providing hands-on training in traditional artisan trades and fine craftsmanship. Over the last couple of years, the school has seen an influx of interest in carpentry and woodworking (cabinetry/furniture making). McGrath attributes the higher enrollment to the stability these fields offer noting that each provide a steady income and a clear career path with employers. Students that complete the carpentry program typically seek apprenticing, finish carpentry, masonry, timber framing, or project management opportunities upon graduating. Those in the woodworking program often start their own businesses. McGrath shared that over 75 percent of North Bennet graduates have been employed in their respective fields for each the last four years, a figure tracked as part of the school’s accreditation process.

ABC MA is the largest construction trade association in the Commonwealth, representing over 450 local general contractor, subcontractor, supplier and associate companies. The organization has seen an uptick in mechanical licensed trades such as refrigeration and pipefitting. These are 3- and 4-year apprenticeships. As Director of Workforce Development, Sullivan speaks with high school students and community-based organizations regularly to express what opportunities the industry offers. He has found that explaining the trajectory of a career in construction and reinforcing the fact that you can start earning an income much sooner often piques their interest and motivates them to start on that path.

Seeing the effects of this ongoing labor shortage, it is our role as Construction Manager to support our trade partners and their educational program any way we can. Erland works with several subcontractors that are recognized as “teaching contractors”. Larkin / Hathaway, Inc. is a sheet metal HVAC fabrication and installation contractor that is well-known for their workforce development and training programs—which includes co-op opportunities for several vocational schools in Massachusetts as well as former military personnel. Most recently, two of their 3-year metal fabrication and installation program graduates join Erland’s project with EMD Serono. Under the guidance of their foreman Ed Woodbury, Nolan Dunne and Bradley Cappello flourished on the 149K sf out-of-the-ground building.

Professional Electrical Contractors (PEC) is another one of our subcontractor partners that provides workforce development. They offer a 4-year in-house electrical apprentice program that is fully licensed by the Division of Occupational Licensure and the Office of Private Occupational Education. The program is offered at no cost to PEC’s associates. Combined with their hands-on Field Development Program – PEC’s educational programs are second to none.

The Gould Construction Institute (GCI) is an industry organization that Erland works closely with. GCI offers construction training that educates the current workforce and develops the next generation of trained craftspeople in:

  • General Construction
  • Safety Training
  • Trade-Specific Apprenticeship Programs
  • Professional Development
  • Project Management Programs

A career in the trades can provide the job security and income that once only a college degree could promise. This type of work is an essential service for which there will always be a need. Spend your career doing interesting and important work that you can be proud of. Consider getting into the trades today!

For any questions regarding this topic, please contact Tom Blesso at

Hughes-Barnes, H. (2021, June 21). How to Beat the Skilled Labor Shortage in 2021, Part 1. ClockShark. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from

Trimble. (2020, April 26). Solving the Labor Shortage: Investing In Students Today for a Better Workforce Tomorrow. Www.Constructible.Trimble.Com. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from