Nashville voters made it clear last summer that they want to see more local hiring for the city’s growing number of construction projects. While proposed regulations face legal challenges, there seems to be some progress among employers.
Yesterday, a construction-trade job fair was held at the Tennessee American Job Center with the intent to reach local workers. The fair itself was pretty quiet. Employers at booths by far outnumbered the slow trickle of prospective employees, despite the fact that each company had good news: We have openings, we offer training at all skill levels and we love hiring locals.
Rod Adkins, a painter by trade and Nashville resident, was happy to put his “name in the hat” at each booth. He liked what he was hearing but was also skeptical. His experience has shown that it’s harder than it looks to tap into the local job market.
Adkins sees a disconnect between the workers of Nashville and the construction sites that fill the skyline. He says, “We walk past these high rises going up and it’s like, I’m a painter, why can’t I interface with that?”
That’s not to say he hasn’t tried. Adkins has been inside a lot of construction offices only to find they’re sub-contracted and they brought their own staff with them, sometimes from out of state. That's frustrating for a local with skill to offer.
Adkins came to the job fair with his friend and apprentice Jonte Furl, a native of East Nashville who is just starting out. He’s been learning to paint with Adkins and is also taking welding classes at Belmont. They’re both hoping what they heard today — the job openings, the training — is not too good to be true.
The job fair continues tomorrow at the Tennessee American Job Center in North Nashville.