Hampton Roads Concrete Industry Offers Decent Wages With On-Site Training For Workers

It’s no secret the construction industry has a labor shortage. But where some see a problem, others…

It’s no secret the construction industry has a labor shortage. But where some see a problem, others like Kyle Anderson see an opportunity.

Anderson is a concrete pump operator for Blanchet Concrete Pumping in Chesapeake. It is obvious Anderson likes his job. He fell into the profession when he heard from his father-in-law that the company was looking to hire and train concrete pump operators.

Early on in his youth, Anderson knew a four-year college degree program was not for him. At the same time, he wanted a profession — not just a job.

“They trained me on the job,” he said. “They offer courses in-house to get me certified.”

The training requires a high school diploma or equivalent and a commercial driver’s license, which some companies help potential employees obtain, he said. In less than five years, he has proven his skills and operates the largest concrete pump in Blanchet’s fleet.

The construction industry reached its largest average number of job openings on record in 2022, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors trade group.

Hampton Roads had more than 1,100 cement masons and concrete finishers as of May 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their regional average yearly salary was $45,820.

Concrete laying requires skill that begins with the precise set-up of the outrigger to ensure it’s on solid ground, so it does not tip.

“If that happens, it’s game over,” he said. “It’s important to get a good start because that means a good finish.”

During the process, all eyes are on Anderson because there is only one operator. He admits it can be stressful but when all goes well, it’s rewarding. That’s where Anderson said it takes a mental approach — an element that keeps him interested.

Anderson has laid concrete in areas the size of football fields and buildings several stories tall.

Like with any construction jobs, there are dangers. If the concrete hose gets plugged, it could whip around causing severe injury.

And the hours are odd.

“It’s not a 9 to 5 job,” he said. “I’ve poured concrete at 3 a.m. — that’s about the average. I’ve gotten up at 11 at night to go to work.”

Another reason Anderson likes his job is the supportive managers at Blanchet.

“They understand the sacrifice and care,” he said.

The Virginian Pilot – Inside Business – By Susan Smigielski Acker | Correspondent

PUBLISHED: November 29, 2023 at 7:41 a.m. | UPDATED: November 29, 2023 at 12:50 p.m.

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