Lemoine sets up training unit to prepare workforce
LAFAYETTE — The Lemoine Company has been in the business of building for the past 37 years. Now the Lafayette-based company is taking on a new venture: building its own workforce.
“We as commercial general contractors, and probably the construction industry across the board, are seeing a decline in skilled workers,” said Seth Lemoine, the company’s business unit leader.
In March, the company started its own training program that enables employees to receive National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) training and certification. The NCCER is a not-for-profit education foundation created to standardize training in the industry.
Most training programs cater to industrial workers and specialty skills that the company doesn’t use, Lemoine said.
“We decided to take control and give these guys the opportunity to receive some formal training and develop them into skilled workers,” Lemoine said.
So far, 15 Lemoine Company staff received training and are certified as instructors and 35 employees are in the training classes with the roster including foremen, project supervisors, and “craft workers,” such as dry-wall specialists, heavy-equipment operators, concrete finishers and carpenters, said Fumy Rita, the company’s craft workforce coordinator.
Of its 200 employees, the company has 68 craft workers, Rita said.
The company received a $127,000 Incumbent Workforce Training Program grant from the Louisiana Workforce Commission for the training, said Kevin Joyce, director of the Incumbent Worker Training Program, which helps companies meet workforce needs.
The company assessed the needs of its employees to develop its courses, Rita said. There are some courses that are prerequisites before the employees begin their specialized training in their work area, including an introduction to construction math, she said. Later this year, a Spanish-language course designed for the construction industry will be offered to help job supervisors better communicate with Hispanic-speaking workers, she said.
The classes meet for four hours each Friday, some on site, others at a training center near the company’s downtown offices.
The employees leave a work site, as well as their higher wages, to attend the program. The company pays them a minimum wage while they’re in training.
Though they could be making more by staying on a job site each Friday afternoon, employees like Seth Domec and Michael Gann say they expect a bigger payoff.
Those in the program who complete certifications become eligible to advance in the company. The company recently developed a craft workforce job advancement chart to show how training and certification can lead to a future with the company, Rita said.
Now, employees have a clear picture of what a future with the company looks like, Lemoine said.
“Our industry doesn’t provide that,” he said. “We’re trying to put some formality to our craft (workers). We’re growing our people with a purpose.”
Michael Gann was hired by Lemoine about a year ago for carpentry work. He took a carpentry class in high school, and he’s been learning more on-the-job.
“I worked offshore for 10 years, so I’m redefining my career,” Gann said.
The chance to improve his skills and grow professionally appealed to him, said Domec, who has worked as a mechanical helper for Lemoine for four years.
While some of the early courses have covered what the men may already be doing on a job site, the training is providing a different perspective of their craft, both men said.
“We’re learning the reasons behind what we’re doing on the site,” Domec said.
Gann said he’s also noticed that he’s taken more initiative on sites, such as calculating measurements for concrete pours, which typically is done by a supervisor.
Next year, the company plans to expand the training to offer an apprenticeship program, Lemoine said.
He said he hopes the training program coupled with the advancement chart that maps out what a future with the company can look like will help attract new workers.
“Fewer people are taking the route of ‘let me go work with my hands for the rest of my life,’ ” he said. “The goal is to begin growing people through the organization with meaningful training.”