A St. Louis subcontractor looking to entice more workers to the trades has hit on an interesting way to get the attention of young people. UP Companies (UPCO) teamed up with music artist Howard "Chingy" Bailey Jr. to write and produce a song and video called "Old Construction Road."
The song plays off of "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and was created to generate interest among younger generations to work in construction. Despite a surplus of well-paying positions and low-cost or free education and training, many young Americans are not choosing jobs in the construction trades, said UPCO President Michael B. Kennedy Jr.
"Speakers and job fairs aren’t getting it done, so we are trying to think outside of the box and be creative to project the fun and creative industry we have."
Michael B. Kennedy Jr.
UPCO, one of the region’s largest full-service MBE-certified contracting companies, has felt the effects of workforce shortages, said Kennedy. In order to recruit new talent for job openings at its three divisions, UPCO managers decided that they needed a fun and innovative way to attract the next generation of workers.
"Our industry is having trouble just getting people to look at the information about our industry," he said. "Speakers and job fairs aren’t getting it done. So we are trying to think outside of the box and be creative to project the fun and creative industry we have."
The video was designed to appeal to potential workers of all ages and of any racial demographic, he said. It took about three months to pull together from conception to release and has been shown by trade organizations and the local media. Since it was posted on YouTube in late December, the video has garnered nearly 8,000 hits.
“We wanted to do a unique project that establishes UPCO as an industry leader whose employees are not afraid to have fun and take risks to get the job done,” he said. “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.”
International recording artist and St. Louis native Bailey, who is the founder of the Chingy For Change Foundation focused on educating inner-city children on how to become positive leaders in their communities, said he was happy to be involved with the 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," he said.
Other organizations are also taking unique steps to help raise construction's cache with young people.
Launched last fall, the Build California campaign utilizes youthful marketing, public relations and outreach efforts to communicate the lucrative, long-term benefits of careers in the state’s construction industry. The group's interactive website was designed to urge high school and college-age Californians (and their parents) to consider an apprenticeship, training or college program.
Spearheaded by the Associated General Contractors of California with support from construction firms like Skanska and Kiewit, the campaign takes a fresh approach to reaching young people in order to help ensure a strong workforce pipeline, according to AGC of California Vice President of Workforce & Community Development Erin Volk.
“We knew we needed a new way of marketing careers to youth in 2019 or 2020,” she said. “It can’t be done the same way we did it 20 years ago, so we knew we had to modernize our efforts.”