By Jim Workman
West Virginia Press Association
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.VA. — Thousands of jobs are expected to be created in the highway construction industry in West Virginia this year due in large part to the funds created by the Roads to Prosperity Bond passed by voters last fall.
Hundreds seeking those jobs participated at the Construction Trades Job Fair at BridgeValley Community & Technical College in South Charleston on Friday.More than 50 organizations and potential employers were present to speak with job seekers.
Participants could also take advantage of resources through Workforce West Virginia, helping with resumes and interviewing skills.
“We want to maximize their abilities to land a career in the construction industry,” said Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractor’s Association of West Virginia.
“We had a great turnout,” Clowser added. “This gives our members a wonderful opportunity to talk to people looking to make a career in West Virginia’s construction industry.”
Clowser said the Road Bond is a way to invest in West Virginia, repairing its roads and build new bridges.
People all over West Virginia will benefit from the highway program. Clowser said.
“We’ve already started hiring engineers who are going to be designing the work,” he said. “We’ve already started hiring people who are going to be building the projects. There are those who are going to be supplying the industry – equipment manufacturers, equipment dealers, building materials suppliers, stone and aggregate companies – they’re all hiring people.”
The jobs created will be long term, Clowser predicted.
“We are looking at a five, to seven to 10-year highway construction and maintenance program,” he said. We see a long-term future for those coming into the construction industry.”
Perry Allen, 52, of Lincoln County attended the job fair. Allen worked 29 years at the Rite Aid Distribution Center in Poca before the facility closed in November 2017.
He is beginning training next week for a CDL license in hopes of landing a job as a heavy equipment operator.
“I would love to get on with the State Department of Highways,” said Allen. “That’s my goal. That’s why I’m getting my license and planning on taking a heavy equipment class in April.”
Brent Walker, communications director with the West Virginia Department of Transportation and Division of Highways, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“Being able to be here in partnership with the Contractors Association and Workforce West Virginia and the other partners in this, we were able to showcase and recruit new employees,” he said.
Walker said the DOT is looking for workers, “across the board.”
“We are looking for transportation workers, maintenance workers, engineering technicians and engineers,” he said. “It runs the gamut. If you’re looking for a career in the Department of transportation, there’s room for you.”
Walker said DOT is “looking to hire about 500 people.”
“That doesn’t even count workers that are below quota,” he added. “We need to fill what we have, plus additional workers. We are trying to identify and recruit top talent.”
One of the companies set up to speak with prospective workers was Triangle, Inc., a Putnam County subcontractor specializing in steel work for bridges.
Bill Howes, president of Triangle, Inc. said his nationally awarded company has completed 600 bridge jobs in the past 30 years.
Howes said he is conservatively optimistic that the construction trade is gearing up for a big uptick.
“We could put a lot of good people to work – long-term work,” Howes said. “We have basic infrastructure needs in West Virginia. We are still working on Corridor H. We’re still working on Route 35. We still have a lot of projects just to get basic infrastructure.”
Howes said he is tired of people having to leave the state for good career opportunities.
“I saw some good potential candidates (at the job fair),” Howes said.
“I’m seeing people that have fallen through the cracks. They haven’t gotten their first great opportunity.”
More job fairs are expected to be held across the state in the coming weeks, Clowser said.