Chico, Calif. – Once debris removal and clean-up is complete and Paradise homeowners receive the green light that it is safe to return and rebuild there is a question many are now asking. Is the local workforce prepared for the task?
Action News Now morning Anchor Julia Yarbough spoke with several in the construction industry who say a rebuild will be a challenge.
Paradise homeowner Cord Whitehouse has only ashes left of his house. He says he and his wife thought about returning to Paradise, but say fears of another fire and also practical realities; such as finding contractors to perform the work, will likely dictate a different decision. They say they will not rebuild.
Whitehouse says he had spoken to some contractors about a possible rebuild and learned there were already people putting their names on lists, early in the process, should they decide to rebuild.
Those in the construction industry say there is currently a shortage of skilled labor to tackle the impending workload.
Executive Director of Valley Contractors Exchange, Loretta Weber says there are local contractors in the region who are capable of working, but says should some 14-thousand individuals choose to return and rebuild, she says the workforce is not adequate. Weber says outside help would be needed.
Weber says for months before the Camp Fire, the local workforce was already, “starving” for trained labor. She says the need for trained workers in key fields, including carpentry, framing, cement, electrical, air conditioning and heating and plumbing, is now amplified.
Demand for construction is expected to increase, but with a limited workforce, how will the industry meet the needs?
Weber says the ultimate goal is to make the process as affordable as possible. She says the industry will likely have to look for other companies to come in from other regions to help rebuild. She says it would be difficult with the current workforce.
There are several proposals on the table to address the shortage. Valley Contractors Exchange is actively working with The Chico Builders’ Association, Butte College and the Alliance for Workforce Development, to perhaps develop an accelerated training course for those already in the construction field looking to sharpen their skills, or those looking for a new trade.
There is also outreach to local high schools, in order to boost interest in the trades and attract fresh talent to the field.
A Butte College representative says creating an accelerated training course is one primary goal, but that hinges on funding from the Department of Labor. Right now, those dollars are in limbo due to the partial government shutdown.
In the meantime, Valley Contractors Exchange is offering immediate help to those who are in the construction industry and who have lost equipment to the Camp Fire. The organization is hosting a tool replacement program, scheduled for Friday, January 11th and Saturday, January 12th. Hours of the program are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday, then 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information on the program, visit Valley Contractors Exchange.