February 2024 Vol. 79 No. 2


PCCA takes workforce development, damage prevention efforts to the States

By Michael Ancell 

Over the last decade, leaders of the Power & Communication Contractors Association (PCCA) have devoted significant time and resources to maximizing the industry's presence in Washington, D.C. Members fly into our nation's capital several times each year to meet with lawmakers, federal agency personnel and other industry groups working on important industry issues.

PCCA President & CEO Tim Wagner presents the association's 2023 Distinguished Service Award to outgoing Chairman Jerrod Henschel, Equix Inc. By any measure, Henschel presided over one of the most successful years in PCCA history.

The PCCA has fought for increased funding for rural broadband and electric power, fewer regulatory roadblocks, faster permitting, damage prevention, workforce development, and more. But in 2023 and now into the new year, PCCA is taking a more active role in the states, especially when it comes to workforce development and damage prevention. 

PCCA will hold its three annual meetings in 2024: PCCA/APCA Washington Fly-in, January 30-31; Annual Convention, March 7-12 at the Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii; and Mid-Year Meeting, July 24-27 at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Michigan. 

At the annual convention in March, the association welcomes its 2024-25 officers: Chairman Matthew Gabrielse, Gabe’s Construction Co.; Chairman-Elect Rob Pribyl, MP Nexlevel; 1st Vice Chairman Craig Amerine, Amerine Utilities Construction; 2nd Vice Chairman Heath Sellenriek, Sellenriek Construction; Treasurer Chase Lapcinski, Push, Inc.; and Secretary John Audi, Mears Group.  

Everyone needs workers

If you're reading a construction magazine, you surely know about the worker shortages throughout the infrastructure industry, and we are not alone. The worker shortage crisis affects almost all industries and greatly hinders American business. As the companies that build America's electric power facilities and broadband networks, PCCA members know that projects that could bring vital broadband connectivity to rural America sit idle, awaiting crews to run them. And they see energy projects languish without necessary workers. 

To battle the worker shortage, PCCA partners with technical schools and community colleges to create utility construction programs, participates in U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship programs, and provides scholarships for students looking to work in the construction industry. PCCA members have beefed up their recruiting staff and greatly broadened their recruiting and retention strategies. Yet, we all still need workers. 

In 2023, PCCA began working with individual states on their efforts to bolster the workforce, particularly on the broadband side. said,  

"All state broadband offices are asking us the same questions: how many workers are needed, and how much do they get paid,” said PCCA President & CEO Tim Wagner. “PCCA has responded by launching a project with the Fiber Broadband Association to quantify, on a state-by-state basis, the number of unfilled broadband construction positions, and the earning potential for those positions." 

PCCA is now working with the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, the Wisconsin Broadband Workforce Coalition, and the Mississippi Broadband Association and Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi. 

Last year, PCCA also created a series of videos promoting careers in utility construction and has been sharing them widely. The videos feature members' employees talking about all that their career affords them: great pay and benefits from day one, the ability to work outdoors and most anywhere in the country, camaraderie with a crew, no student debt, and benefiting their communities by hardening the power grid, restoring power after storms, and bringing 21st century broadband connectivity. 

You can find PCCA's workforce videos on Youtube and all social media. Everybody in the construction industry and anybody who knows a person looking for a rewarding and long-lasting career is encouraged to share these videos.  

Strong immigration stance

Despite the hard work by PCCA and its members – and by the entire business community – everyone still needs workers, which is why PCCA leaders maintain their staunch commitment to immigration reform and to changing hearts and minds on this issue. PCCA supports full funding for border control but also wants immigration reform that allows good, hard-working people a legal way to enter the country, become taxpayers and pursue the American dream. 

PCCA supports the Dignity Act as a strong, yet fair, way to address America's critical worker shortage. Introduced by Reps. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), the Dignity Act consists of four core principles: 

  1. Stopping illegal immigration 
  2. Providing a dignified solution for undocumented immigrants living in America 
  3. Strengthening the American workforce and economy 
  4. Ensuring the United States remains prosperous and competitive in the future 

"PCCA members work every day to close the digital divide and strengthen America's power grid, but we desperately need workers to finish the job," PCCA Chairman Ed Campbell, Quanta Services, said. "The Dignity Act is a well-balanced, common-sense approach that addresses all the immigration challenges. It tackles the workforce issue while also investing billions in border security measures, overhauling our failed asylum processes and improving the legal immigration system. 

"Moving immigration reform in our current political climate is certainly a daunting task, and I commend Rep. Salazar and Rep. Escobar for their courage and resolve,” Campbell added. “PCCA members have their back on this issue and pledge to support them throughout the legislative process because we know it's right for our industry, it's fair to law-abiding immigrants, and it's good for America." 

In 2023, PCCA created a video, The Economics of Immigration, featuring Mark Bridgers, Continuum Capital, based on an impactful presentation he gave at PCCA's 2023 Convention. You can find the video at the bottom of PCCA's homepage or on Youtube.

At the 2023 PCCA Convention, the association inducted Dan Levac, Preformed Line Products, and John Fluharty, Troy Companies, into the PCCA Hall of Fame.

Making damage prevention a top priority

Focused on the safety of their workers, the public and all underground facilities, PCCA members are fiercely committed to improving damage prevention. PCCA helps lead the Infrastructure Protection Coalition (IPC) and works closely with the Common Ground Alliance.  

A 2021 IPC study shined light on inefficiencies and waste in the nation's 811 system, and now the coalition has begun working with stakeholders to affect change in states around the country. The IPC is currently working with efforts in Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Washington.  

PCCA's relationship with CGA is one that association leaders greatly value and work to continually build. PCCA holds an Excavation Safety Summit at its convention each year in conjunction with CGA and NULCA, and it has helped to forge relationships between PCCA, CGA staff and board members, and the locating community.  

Several PCCA leaders are highly engaged with CGA, serving in leadership positions and working on Next Practices and the new Damage Prevention Institute. 

PCCA Past Chairman Jerrod Henschel, president & CEO of Equix Inc., dedicates much of his time and wisdom to CGA.

PCCA Chairman Ed Campbell, Quanta Services, addresses the membership during the Mid-Year Meeting in Dana Point, Calif.

"Through this involvement, I’ve met folks from around the country who work in 811 centers, executives from large multi-state gas and electric utilities and pipeline systems, managers of city-owned utilities, and leaders of utility locating firms to name a few," he said.  

"As diverse as this group is, the amazing thing is that we tend to have far more agreement on the things that need to change than I would have initially expected. I firmly believe that our continued involvement with CGA is the most effective path we have for driving improvement in the damage prevention process." 

Some of the key issues that PCCA is working on with CGA: 

  • Development of GIS-based mapping applications to show facility locations. Take a look at the Pipeline Finder app by Marathon to see an example of how this can be done. 
  • Implementation of electronic white lining systems for online ticket entry. Some states already offer this; many do not. 
  • Removal of locating exemptions for municipalities or DOTs. As much as we all know about the danger of cross bores, it’s unconscionable that any facility operator is allowed exemptions, particularly storm and wastewater utilities. 
  • Balanced enforcement. When utility operators, locators, or excavators egregiously fail to comply with the regulations, there must be enforcement mechanisms in place that take meaningful action.  

To learn more about any of the issues discussed in this article, visit our website and look for us on social media. 

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