The construction industry has been booming in Arizona for the past few years. Cumming, a national project management and cost consulting firm, reports that the market expanded a remarkable 21.2% in 2020, and while it projects development to peak sometime this year, it continues to flourish beyond expectations. Unfortunately, with such rapid growth, there aren’t enough skilled labor workers to fill the demand.
To help the construction industry meet this need, Facebook recently launched a nationwide construction job training program, dubbed “Hardhat in Hand,” at its data center construction sites across the country. In August, the social networking technology company announced that it will be building a 960,000-square-foot data center in Mesa. The $800 million project will include the training program, which will bolster Arizona’s construction workforce.
According to the company, Hardhat in Hand offers hands-on training for individuals to create a diverse pipeline of workers that is needed not only for construction of the data center but also other projects throughout the Greater Phoenix area.
David Williams, community development manager at Facebook, explains, “Hardhat in Hand is one of our efforts to invest in communities we are a part of. It is our attempt to address a key need — lack of skilled workers in the construction industry that Arizona and other states are facing. The goal of the program is to expand the local skilled trades talent pipeline, increase diversity in the construction industry and provide a path to reliable well-paid job opportunities.”
The program is an eight-week training that will have participants begin with classroom coursework before moving to on-the-job training. The goal is to get students prepared for entry-level careers in construction. Once participants complete the program, they can earn full-time employment in many different fields within construction, such as carpentry, electrical, concrete and more. Hardhat in Hand intended for anyone ages 18 and older who is interested in making construction a career rather than for workers who are already in the industry.
While specific details about the Mesa program were still being finalized at press time, Facebook is partnering with DPR Construction, the general contractor on the data center project, to build out the program and staffing. Williams notes that a local community college and/or vocational school will provide the in-classroom training.
Facebook’s Hardhat in Hand program began as a pilot program at three of the company’s data centers in Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio in 2019. It was extremely successful in building a pipeline of skilled workers. Due to COVID-19, the cohorts were small, but they saw program completion rates of 90% or higher. Most participants accepted positions with their general contractors or subcontractors at the end of the program.
Facebook expects the Hardhat in Hand training program to be up and running by the end of 2022.