If you don’t get anything for Christmas this year, don’t just assume you were on the naughty list. Before you mentally catalog every Facebook post you made wondering where you went wrong, consider this: if anyone were to be hit hard by workforce shortages, it’s likely the skilled laborers in Santa’s workshop.
Ask any carpenter, HVAC, electrician, builder or anyone in the trades and they will tell you the same thing. For the last two years, there has been far more work than workers.
This is likely going to correct itself to some extent as ever-increasing interest rates drive down demand for housing. However, there’s still soon going to be a generation of retiring workers that will need to be replaced.
The last two weeks have provided a couple of examples of local groups stepping up to help combat this problem. You may have read in the paper this week that new State Senator Blaise Ingoglia donated $1,000 to several local charities including the Citrus Construction Academy. What you might not know is that the Construction Academy received its single largest local donation just the week prior - seven times the generous amount Senator Ingoglia gave.
The point of these columns is not to report what happened, but rather tell you why something is happening and a natural question arises here: why did the smaller amount donated by someone who lives in Hernando County get more coverage than the record setting local donation?
The answer is simple. Movements need leaders. Our interpersonal connection with individuals is far more relatable than our understanding of organizations.
The generous donor who became the largest local donor (second largest overall donor behind Lowe’s Home Improvement corporation) to the Construction Academy was the Realtors’ Association of Citrus County. I’ve served on the board of the Construction Academy since its inception in 2017 and been running political campaigns in Citrus since the year before that, and both these opportunities have allowed me to glean insight into the RACC. It’s one of the most underrated associations in the county.
Rotary and the United Way play a critical civil service but are limited by an understandable unwillingness to get political. Trade organizations like the RACC aren’t bound by these limitations. From advocacy to community involvement whether it’s at the state or local level, the RACC is well-represented and going beyond what most other organizations do.
This all might be news to you, though, because the RACC doesn’t have a front-facing individual leader. While it does have a leadership structure, it rotates and oftentimes these leaders understand the role is to uplift all the members of the organization rather than their personal voice.
Compare this with the Chamber of Commerce, another trade organization, but one that has a CEO in addition to its rotating board chairman. For better (and sometimes you’ll hear me argue) or worse, this gives the chamber an easier recognizable presence.
The same goes for our new Senator. Although he has a team behind him of campaign workers and staff aides, the movement that was “Blaise Ingoglia for State Senate” culminated in being able to hand out big checks to help the community in a position that is going to get him recognized in our local media.
Both deserve tremendous praise for their work. The reason for framing the narrative like this is not to be critical of the RACC’s organizational structure or of Senator Ingolgia’s amount but rather to talk about my own missed opportunity with this concept.
In 2017, my business had an advertising contract with Withlacoochee Technical College. I had pitched the executive team the idea of a spokesperson becoming the face of the school - Someone who would embody all the traits a prospective student would want to emulate: toughness, preparedness and smarts. Ultimately, the spokesperson we chose was never fully sold on the idea and the campaign resulted in a couple of radio ads that never caught much attention, but I still believe it is what the college is missing.
The Citrus County School District, thanks in large part to advocating from school board member Thomas Kennedy who owned a construction company prior to his public service, has doubled down on supporting the trades as well by agreeing to fund a course that Governor DeSantis had vetoed state funding for. Around 140 students enrolled demonstrating strong demand.
Trade education is on the cusp of breaking through a generational problem, but let the lesson from the last two weeks of generosity be a guide, this movement still needs a leader.