Flagger Force: Partnerships to Grow a Skilled Workforce
February 14, 2020
Mandatory infrastructure upgrades are forcing contractors and utilities to rapidly increase work capacity. However, this is completely dependent upon companies having the trained staff available to tackle a growing list of projects. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Pennsylvania alone needs to add about 137,000 construction workers by 2021 in order to keep up with demand. Not only does this require hiring new employees, but also retaining and developing them to keep pace with the needs of the nation’s infrastructure.
To meet the demand, the industry is turning toward workforce development partnerships and collaborations—connecting individuals who previously may not have had access to these work opportunities but are eager to build careers in this sector.
A Company Perspective
At Flagger Force we are focusing on workforce development to not only help address this nationwide necessity, but to also address our own. We have a critical need to fill jobs and are continuously looking for ways to find talent. Our workforce development program is centered around targeted strategies that consider the unique needs and challenges of the people “ready-to-work” in the markets we serve. We are perennially searching for new recruitment sources.
Historically, our approach to hiring did not include defined strategies to engage with emerging labor markets of reentrants and those looking for a second chance. By highlighting positive values of the individual rather than disqualifying them based on a perceived negative value of this occupational barrier, we have created access to employment that for many, would have previously been unavailable. Knowing employment barriers exist in the pool of potential recruits is just step one. The real ingenuity comes from meeting an individual where they’re at in their journey and being committed to providing them opportunities that impact the trajectory of said journey in a positive and meaningful manner.
However, growing a workforce comes with opportunities and challenges, and sometimes innovative measures are needed. For instance, a valid driver’s license and access to a reliable vehicle are base requirements for employment with our company. As we looked at our community and the number of possible, license-less applicants who, if given the chance, could be the talent that might help us grow a stronger workforce, it became clear we had to adjust our thinking. It was this particular perspective shift that led us to see the potential we had at our fingertips—tapping into our current workforce to help grow itself. We had our existing workforce leverage their large fleet of trucks to create ride share opportunities. This way of thinking reverse engineers job requirements and transforms them into practical solutions.
“Being able to support the needs of a variety of populations with specific employment barriers while also reinforcing the capabilities of our current workforce is a win-win,” said Jen Strobel, vice president of human resources at Flagger Force. “Add to the equation contributing to the quality and productiveness of our communities, it’s a no brainer to invest in this initiative.”
The complexity of work barriers is so vast that internal solutions alone are insufficient. While progressing our workforce development program, we’ve found that we need partners to help identify those “ready-to-work” in the areas we serve.
Partnering for a Career
Our partnership with the Living Classrooms Foundation—a nonprofit in Baltimore, Maryland which focuses on disrupting the cycle of poverty and making the community safer, stronger, and healthier—strategically evolved our workforce development program in the summer of 2018. Finding another organization to tie our mission to and to cooperate with around a shared objective proved to be a powerful strategy to both of our causes.
“Our partnership with Flagger Force is a tremendous collaboration for us,” said James Piper Bond, president of Living Classrooms. “Creating entry-level jobs, as well as a pipeline to a career, was a huge factor for us as we built out our program together. One of the things that truly impressed us about Flagger Force was meeting employees who have started as a crew member but are now in leadership positions within the company. That is a huge piece of the puzzle for us as we work to provide these individuals a new opportunity they may not have had before.”
We have relied on Living Classrooms to identify interested candidates, most of them reentrants, through their own selection process. Flagger Force provides occupational training and certifications to become a traffic control professional. Participants hired by Flagger Force are then paired with a field mentor in the region, a seasoned employee with a company truck. Flagger Force mentors were selected to help guide the new crew members and pick them up every day—normally at a public transit hub near the job. The mentor and new crew member are then always assigned to jobs together—making the shared commute model most effective.
The remarkable upshot from this approach is a significantly higher retention rate of these employees. We have found some additional attention and investment along with the right workforce partner makes a tangible impact. “The culture at Flagger Force is built on taking care of each other, which is why this workforce development method has worked so well for us,” added Sean Lightner, vice president of business development at Flagger Force. “Our company continues to look for future collaborations like this throughout our footprint.”
Partnering for a Future
Since launching our workforce development program and sharing our story of partnership with Living Classrooms, we’ve seen success throughout our organization and through the positive effects it’s had on our communities. It has opened doors to develop partnerships with multiple agencies, including the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, the state Department of Corrections, and many other related workforce organizations throughout our service area.
Transportation and reentrant hurdles are just two of the many employment obstacles we are presently tackling. We’re always learning more about employment barriers and fully intend to expand our exploration to the unique needs of others, such as veteran populations. We have tasked ourselves with being able to evaluate and plan for specific employment barriers in a way that creates lasting opportunities for career, business, and local economic growth. Creative, solutions-oriented problem solving focused on meeting individual needs is a cornerstone of our efforts, which will allow us to continue to be able to use business to improve lives.
As Flagger Force’s workforce development program expands, so does the need for additional partnerships and the opportunity to provide more jobs. For more information and to learn more about our partnership with Living Classrooms, please visit www.FlaggerForce.com/workforce.
Flagger Force Traffic Control Services® is recognized as an industry leader in temporary traffic control. In 2002, the company was founded by entrepreneurs with a handful of employees; one pickup truck; and the signs, stands, and cones needed to control traffic in a work zone. Today, Flagger Force establishes safe work zones with a fleet of approximately 1,000 trucks and 1,700 full-time employees. Their quality and safety standards have been embraced by industry stakeholders and has allowed them to continuously expand their geographic reach. Flagger Force is headquartered in Hummelstown, PA and has the resources and expertise to help support our nation’s infrastructure, utilities, and other service industries—providing career opportunities throughout their footprint.
For more information, visit www.FlaggerForce.com.