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Chamber Releases Skilled Construction Trades Study

Chamber Releases Skilled Construction Trades Study

Member News
Report documents a worker shortage in the skilled construction trades and the costs of a tradescraft training center, and identifies the need for a comprehensive, county-wide workforce development plan.


CHAPEL HILL, NC - The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro (The Chamber) published the Skilled Construction Trades Study, a compilation of research completed in partnership with the Skilled Construction Trades Study Group (Study Group) that confirms the construction trades talent pipeline in Orange County needs attention and identifies the start-up costs of a possible training center. The report concludes with recommended next steps and identifies the need for a comprehensive, county-wide workforce development plan.

“We appreciate the Orange County Commissioners for commissioning and funding this study, which allowed us to research the skilled construction trades talent pipeline and assess the feasibility of a tradescraft training center in Orange County,” said Katie Loovis, The Chamber Vice President of External Affairs and lead facilitator and researcher on the project.

Three Key Findings

The nearly year-long study involved meetings and interviews with fifty key stakeholders as well as extensive research on national, state, and regional policies and programs that culminated in this 88-page report. The study made three key findings for this region.

First, this study validated that there is a construction worker shortage and employer demand continues despite the pandemic-related economic contraction. Second, there are several occupations in the construction trades with strong income opportunities and projected growth. Third, while the construction job opportunities are robust, training for these occupations in Orange County is limited at best.

Recommended Short-Term Next Steps

Constructive conversations among key stakeholders throughout this study helped surface three opportunities that, if implemented, could immediately improve the Orange County skilled construction trades talent pipeline:

1) Identify funding for new construction classes for students and re-careering adults in Orange County taught by Durham Tech faculty at Orange High School and by Hope Renovations staff at the Fitch Lumber Training Lab. 

2) Support the launch of the new HVAC training program at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the continued success of the Hillsborough Chamber’s “Students Transforming Expectations & Exploring Real Opportunities” (STEER) career exploration program.

3) Support the expansion of WayMakers to include Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.  

Recommended Long-Term Strategy

The Study Group recommends that these short-term interventions to improve the skilled construction trades talent pipeline should be complimented with a long-term strategy. There are several industries in addition to construction that would benefit from an increased economic and workforce development focus, including health care and biopharma, information technology, professional services, hospitality and food services, logistics, electrical, and automotive.

To that end, the final recommendation is to create a comprehensive, demand-driven workforce development plan for Orange County that is regional in approach, aligned to dynamic business needs, and designed to build Orange County’s competitive advantage.

A comprehensive workforce development plan will inform Orange County long-term future workforce development investments, including in a possible construction trades training center. The Study Group recommends diverse leaders throughout Orange County convene this fall to begin discussing these recommendations and launch a comprehensive planning process.

Scope of Work

The Orange County Board of Commissioners commissioned and funded this study in June 2019 and the Orange County Manager contracted The Chamber to conduct the study in November 2019. The final report published in July addresses all ten deliverables as outlined in the initial scope of work as well as presents other findings and recommended next steps.

About: The Chamber is a membership organization that serves and advances the business interests of Greater Chapel Hill, including the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well as southern Orange, northern Chatham, and southwest Durham counties. The Chamber's network is growing with nearly 800-member enterprises that employ more than 95,000 workers throughout the region. Together with its network, The Chamber is committed to building a sustainable community where business thrives.

Contact: For questions, contact Katie Loovis, Vice President of External Affairs, The Chamber, (919) 696-0781 (cell), 

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