Missouri needs skilled trade workers for historic infrastructure investments

Bi-partisan group of legislators participate in a town hall at Laborers and Contractors Training Center

A BI-PARTISAN GROUP of Missouri legislators participated in a town hall and tour of the Laborers and Contractors Training Center in High Hill, Mo., on Oct. 19 to learn about the training program and discuss the need for more skilled trade workers as the federal government and Missouri roll out historic infrastructure investments.
– Missouri-Kansas Laborers District Council photo


High Hill, MO – Historic infrastructure investments by the federal government and the state of Missouri have resulted in an unprecedented need for skilled tradesmen and women.

Members of the Missouri House Workforce and Infrastructure Development Committee heard from leaders of the Laborers’ Union and contractors about the need for more men and women in the construction industry at a town hall meeting Oct. 19 at the Laborers and Contractors Training Center in High Hill, Mo.

The Construction Craft Laborers apprenticeship program teaches individuals the skills they need to build lasting infrastructure, both in the classroom and on the jobsite.

Following the town hall, members of the committee took a tour of the training center, where they saw the extensive training provided to apprentices and journeymen alike.

“The Construction Craft Laborers apprenticeship program has a proven record of training workers to rise to the challenge of building our infrastructure for the modern era,” said Brandon Flinn, business manager for the Missouri and Kansas Laborers District Council.

Missouri-Kansas Laborers District Council represents more than 12,000 construction craft laborers in Missouri and Kansas. Currently, the Laborers union is training more than 900 apprentices across the state and will continue to train even more in the future.

“The state and federal government have just made historic investments in infrastructure for Missouri,” said Representative Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal). “Now those construction projects are starting to happen and we need skilled workers to fill those positions. This is one location that is already training that workforce.”

“One of the things that both sides agree on is that we have some real concerns about where the future of our workforce is going to come from,” said Mike Howard, recruitment and outreach specialist for the Missouri Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET)

One of the largest projects coming up is the $2.8 billion I-70 project – adding an extra lane in both directions from Wentzville to Blue Springs.

“That’s a lot of work for Laborers, maybe years’ worth of work for us,” Howard told Fox 2 News. “For so long, probably 10 to 15 years at least, we’ve told kids to go to college, and we haven’t done a good job of going out and recruiting and promoting the trades and specifically the Laborers union as an option.”

Howard told lawmakers the industry is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of about 4.8 percent. There’s money that’s been dedicated to this type of work, he said, so now it’s about finding the people to get it done.

“We are out there hitting the pavements, shaking all of the bushes, trying to tell our story to try to get young folks interested in the construction industry to bring them in,” said Scott Hughes, director of Missouri LECET.

With aging infrastructure across the state and one of the largest highway systems in the country, skilled trade workers are in demand, and more are needed.

Riggs and other lawmakers say they are tasking themselves with finding ways to help the industry and Missouri’s workforce.

“It’s a huge investment in us, but at the same time, we need to invest back into the people to get them trained up where they can do that,” Riggs said. “It’s the sewer lines, it’s the wastewater, it’s the treatment plants, plants that were built for 50 years of life that are now approaching 100. All this stuff needs to be replaced, and it’s going to take folks who are trained to do all of that.”

State representatives from the House Workforce and Infrastructure Development Committee who took part in the town hall included:

  • Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal). 
  • Rep. Bridget Walsh Moore (D-St. Louis).
  • Rep. Adrian Plank (D-Columbia).
  • Rep. Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis).
  • And Rep. Mike Stephens (R-Bolivar).


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