American Subcontractors Association of Colorado
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Drew Taylor
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Based in Englewood, Colorado, the American Subcontractors Association of Colorado (ASAC) represents the highly-skilled craftspeople and specialized trades that make up the subcontractor and supplier sector of the construction industry in the Centennial State. Through advocacy, education and networking and support, ASAC helps more than 100 member companies meet the demands of a growing industry, overcome labor challenges and stay abreast with ongoing technology updates.
Meeting boomtown demand
Debra Scifo, executive director of ASAC, has been with the organization for nearly 20 years. She has seen firsthand the shift in the construction industry, especially in recent years with the population surge in Colorado. She says population growth is the No. 1 reason the building market is so hot right now.
“By 2020, we’re expected to have more than 8 million people in Colorado,” she says. “The building market is booming in the Denver area and beyond because our state is increasingly attracting big industry and more people who want to live and work here. Colorado is beautiful and people are attracted to the outdoors and healthy way of life, but as a state, we also have the resources and ability to meet the demand with housing and necessary infrastructure.”
Scifo says now that the economy has rebounded and there’s more emerging industry and young people making the move to Colorado, there’s a huge opportunity in construction and development. “With this comes the need for everything that makes a community — transportation infrastructure, utilities, housing, schools, shopping, health care and so much more. There’s no end in sight for these kinds of projects in Colorado right now,” she says.
Colorado is now one of the top five states in the nation for large technology companies and high-tech jobs, which ties in with the changing demographic, explains Scifo. “In Colorado, millennials have surpassed baby boomers in terms of the workforce.”
Combating labor shortages
While there are more millennials entering the high-tech world, there are fewer entering the skilled trades. “We’re experiencing industrywide workforce issues as the baby boomers retire and millennials go into tech and other arms of the construction industry that aren’t necessarily field craftsmen,” says Scifo.
With this labor storage, Scifo says the importance of performing quality work and recruiting new people is now more important than ever. “One of the most powerful retention tools a construction company can have is a solid safety program and culture — I can’t emphasize that enough,” she says. “There’s a lot of renovation and adaptive reuse projects going on in Colorado and there are always unseen issues and safety challenges in this type of work. That’s why a safety mindset, on and off the jobsite, is so important.”
Another important aspect in retaining quality employees is a culture of opportunity and growth. “People need to feel valued and respected,” says Scifo. “We have a lot of ongoing member discussion and education on how to build a solid safety program and creating a good company culture.”
Educational tools for tech-savvy trades
Today, a four-year degree is more the norm than going into a skilled trade right out of high school. “Millennials look at the trades as a second-down job, but what a lot of people don’t realize is tech is driving construction, just as much as any other industry,” she says. “The construction worker today is not only a craftsperson, but they’re also very technologically astute. Technology is changing because the types of buildings we’re building are changing; technology is no longer static.”
Scifo says ASAC is doing everything it can to arm its members with the right educational tools to help embrace technology, and not see it as another project hurdle. “At the end of the day, we build tangible things and sometimes incorporating an intangible technology is difficult for our industry. It needs to be easy to use, portable and affordable; not cumbersome and time consuming, because it cannot take away from the physical to-do list that is expected on the job every day,” says Scifo.
Scifo says education is important to help smooth this transition. “We’ve integrated technology education into all of our weekly email communications, business development initiatives and training,” she says. “You have some people who are eager to adopt technology and others that don’t see the value right away. Our goal is to show them why it’s important and make it easy.”
ASAC representatives recently attended a technology training session at the Independent Electrical Contractors Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter, an ASAC sister organization. “The event was an appetizer and drinks gathering called ‘There’s an App for That,’” says Scifo. “They were able to chat with others in the industry and see what things are working or not working for them.”
Drones are becoming more popular and a useful overall risk management tool on the jobsite. “We recently attended a legal discussion and forum on drone use provided by the Colorado Safety Association,” says Scifo. “Drones help construction professionals record job site progress, shore up safety and increase security monitoring and accountability.”
Scifo adds ASAC also hosts a wide range of technology webinars to help its members access free, convenient education and learn about new technology updates and tools.
Finding common ground
Connecting members in common struggles and giving them a place to voice these concerns is a key part of ASAC’s mission. “Our three primary goals are advocacy, education and networking,” says Scifo. “We work very hard to incorporate at least two of these objectives in every event we do. Advocating for the trades in the community and industry at large is important; we want people to know who we are, what we do and why we do it.”
A popular program that works to fulfill this mission is the Contractor Breakfast Interchange (CBI). “We solicit a general contractor through ASAC and put their panel of people in front of our subcontractors,” says Scifo. “This opens a dialogue about the business, where they work and what type of work they do. It’s an example of a grassroots, ‘I want to work with you’ program.”
ASAC also hosts annual quarterly events such as a legislative fundraiser and an awards gala. “We just had our 31st annual awards gala — ASAC Annual Construction Industry & Excellence in Safety Awards Gala — where we present industry awards in safety excellence in 20 categories. It was a red carpet event and a celebration of our members’ accomplishments,” says Scifo.
Aside from these anticipated annual events, Scifo says one of the most rewarding and fun aspects of her role with ASAC is helping young people develop leadership skills. “Owners can turn to us with the next generation or younger employees and they can join ASAC groups and committees. We help them learn how to be decision makers, how to coordinate, organize and facilitate,” she says.
This kind of development and germane support is critical to success as Colorado subcontractors look to retain quality employees, find the next crop of talent and stay competitive in a booming marketplace. The American Subcontractors Association of Colorado continues to assist specialty trades by drawing connections, leveraging educational resources and growing businesses through active support.
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