Economists predict the Colorado construction industry will need to fill nearly 50,000 managerial and skilled labor positions by 2027, if it hopes to bridge the talent gap that continues to grow as experienced Baby Boomers retire.

But the industry’s current workforce development strategies and investments are incapable of filling the gap. Contractors of all sizes are already suffering from their inability to attract and retain the talent they need to adequately staff future projects. And the gap will only get worse when the Colorado economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic era and, as now expected, heads into an extended period of record-breaking growth that fuels extraordinary demand for new construction on a wide variety of public and private projects.

As resource shortages become more severe, the specialty subcontractors that perform the bulk of the construction work on most commercial projects will suffer the most. They will lack the capacity to win more work when new projects are awarded, or they will unwisely accept more work than they have the capacity to properly perform and everyone involved in the project will be at risk.

There are no easy long-term solutions to this urgent problem. But for now, let’s not overlook one relatively inexpensive, low-risk option that is readily available to help Colorado contractors mitigate their losses.

There are dozens of women and minority business enterprise (W/MBE) construction companies in Colorado that have proven qualifications and a desire to grow. These successful businesses are ready, willing and able to play a vital role in closing the talent gap, and many more will follow their path to success when given an equal opportunity and appropriate mentoring. As the thought leaders at Construction Executive recently reminded us, “Women- and Minority-Owned Construction Firms Prosper From Public-Private Mentor Training Programs.

W/MBE mentor training programs have been part of the construction industry for decades; however, their results have been disappointing for a variety of reasons that often were beyond the control of the participating small businesses. Nevertheless, CE’s report on the recent success stories coming out of Ft. Worth, Texas, involving The Beck School of Construction, clearly demonstrate that today’s public-private mentor training programs can be successful when they are implemented properly by industry experts who see the need and have the resources to help close the talent gap.

If the owners and leaders of Colorado construction businesses are serious about preventing an unprecedented workforce crisis, then they should join forces with – and make the necessary investments in – their local W/MBE counterparts. This strategy will allow the industry to jumpstart its overall construction capacity.

But the success of these public-private mentor training programs will depend on the willingness of the Colorado public, private and nonprofit business sectors to come together in a cooperative fashion to extend the reach of proven public-private workforce development initiatives. The Beck School of Construction is only one example. There are several others right here in Colorado.

Helping W/MBE construction companies grow, so they can add to the overall capacity of the Colorado construction industry, will provide a tremendous long-term return on investment for everyone who is willing to invest wisely in their success.