On a sunny Wednesday morning, Logan Coue said work is exactly where he wants to be.
“I go to work every day smiling. Get up every day ready to go to work. I don’t drag my feet. It’s exciting,” said Coue.
The 19-year-old pipe fitter is just a little more than a year out of high school. He was chomping at the bit to start working at Contractor Service and Fabrication, Inc. since the first time he saw the company at a job fair hosted by Calhoun Community College.
“I started going when I was a freshman and every year I’d go up to him and ask him, ‘Hey, y’all still got jobs open? You still got jobs open?’ And then my senior year, it finally just escalated to where I went and filled out an application,” said Coue.
Before he started, Coue toured the site a number of times with a few people, including Michael Rea, who manages the pipe shop and helps with recruiting.
“I told him when he came here, that we would expose him to different things he’s never seen before. And so he kind of blossomed from that. He took what he learned and came on to the next thing, the next step, just baby steps,” said Rea.
He said bringing young people into the skilled trades is an essential part of not only their business, but also the industry.
“It may not help us today and it may not help us tomorrow, but a year from now, we’ll be better than we was because you already have a guy that’s up and coming, like Logan and some others that we have working for us that will be better and will make us better,” said Rea.
According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, on average, for every four people who leave the construction industry, only one is replaced by an apprentice. They also note that the average age of a construction worker is 47-years-old.
Rea said they’re working to change that by hiring a number of young employees and training apprentices, like Coue and fellow 19-year-old, Michael Lee.
Lee joined the company in January and was getting ready to head to Daikin this week for his first on-site experience.
“I really like machinery, how it all works. I like finding out how things work. So just observing everything we need and then also, repairing what needs to be repaired or adding new piping,” said Lee.
“If it don’t make us better as a company, it will make us better as an industry. If they decide to leave, we still have made an impact, made a difference,” noted Rea.
Over at the Morgan County Schools Technology Park where Coue was taught in high school, instructor Brandon Jarrett said they are seeing a growing interest in welding and fabrication.
However, fixing the workforce shortfall won’t be a quick process.
“By what I'm hearing, it’s going to be years from now before we get caught up. Years. 10, 15 years,” said Jarrett.
Rea said it’s going to take more than just high schools and a couple of companies to course correct.
“All these companies are going to have to take this on. One company can’t do it. It’s not going to be enough. But if you don’t take it on at all, then it’s not ever going to get better,” said Rea.
He hopes businesses and schools can find and inspire more young people, like Coue, into joining the trade.
“[B]eing able to look back at something and say, “Yeah, we put that together.” I just means a lot to me and I love it,” said Coue.
To learn more about construction in Alabama, click here.