APAI and FFA Partnership

The Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana has partnered with Future Farmers of America Indiana to raise awareness of rewarding and meaningful careers in the asphalt industry for FFA’s 12,500 member teenagers in our state. On May 2nd, 2018, APAI hosted #Ag2Asphalt Day at the FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar for approximately 160 students from area high schools. APAI paved the large parking lot at no cost to FFA, a statewide not for profit organization which serves young Hoosiers. Why did we partner with FFA? The quick answer is: only one member of a farm family will inherit the family farm. Other siblings are often seeking alternative careers.

At #Ag2Asphalt Day, students observed the paving demonstration, attended a college and career fair, and sat through panels explaining the opportunities for successful careers in the asphalt industry. The college and career fair featured many of our member company personnel at information booths describing typical career paths in our industry for a variety of recession-resistant, well-paid positions. The career options include quality control technician, project manager, estimator, laborer, operator, safety manager, mechanic, truck driver, accountant, IT specialist, HR professional, and others. Booths were also set up by five Indiana universities – Indiana State, Trine, IUPUI, Rose-Hulman, and Purdue – where APAI awards approximately $50,000 in undergraduate scholarships to students studying civil engineering and construction management degrees. Additionally, students were also able to experience a loader simulator, an excavator simulator, and a motor grader simulator supplied by APAI Associate Members Rudd Equipment and MacAllister Machinery. The event also featured a panel discussion by Human Resource Directors from our contractor members who presented on “Exploring Careers in the Asphalt Industry” with tips on getting hired for both positions that do not require any college and positions that require either a two or four-year degree. Throughout the day, FFA member John Shuler shot footage for a video which will promote careers in the asphalt industry. That video will be distributed to Indiana high schools and will be shown at the FFA state convention in June, which APAI is co-sponsoring and exhibiting at. FFA Indiana used social media to promote the event and aired Facebook Live video streams throughout the day.

In late 2016, APAI surveyed its contractor members and learned that members were expecting about 875 “baby boomer” retirements over the next 5-7 years in 15 critical job classifications. That’s nearly 10% of our workforce, and the survey was done prior to passage of a new state highway bill in 2017 expected to provide $1.2 billion in additional infrastructure funding to INDOT. The association’s leadership was determined to find a creative, unique way of recruiting young people into the industry, and raising asphalt career awareness among a talented population of young people became a priority. We will be successful if we can ultimately recruit 5-7% of the 12,500 Indiana FFA members to enter our industry in some capacity over the next 5-7 years to replace these retiring baby boomers. Members of FFA, both in Indiana as well as the nearly 700,000 members nationally, grow up running and maintaining heavy equipment like what our members use to build our state’s highway infrastructure. FFA members learn the value of hard work and long hours and are used to working outside in adverse weather conditions on a seasonal basis. The young men and women we have met with at our Workforce Development Committee meetings, our Board meetings, and at our annual convention are outstanding young people with well-developed leadership and communication skills. FFA has 206 chapters throughout the state of Indiana and our members operate asphalt plants throughout the state as well. #Ag2Asphalt Day is the first step in raising career awareness, along with the video, social media, and our participation in the FFA Indiana June Convention/Trade Show.

To continue our partnership going forward, we confirmed recently that FFA National will be participating in World of Asphalt, a major educational conference and trade show coming to Indianapolis February 12-14, 2019. World of Asphalt will provide a complimentary exhibit booth for FFA and free admission for students under the age of 20. We are investigating student tours of the World of Asphalt trade show for interested FFA members with all transportation costs from schools around the state paid by the industry. Similarly, FFA National has invited the National Asphalt Pavement Association to participate in the national annual meeting in Indianapolis October 24-27, 2018 which will draw 67,000 young men and women. Thanks to FFA, AEM and NAPA for making this happen.

Our Indiana experience could and should serve as a template for other state asphalt pavement associations looking to help members solve their workforce development challenges. We know of at least one national industry magazine featuring an article about #Ag2Asphalt Day, evidence that the concept is gaining traction on a national stage. We encourage other construction trade associations to partner with your state FFA chapter by offering to give back to your local FFA community under your association’s name and helping these organizations address their most pressing infrastructure needs. It’s a great way to demonstrate to FFA members that our industry’s corporate culture is all about giving back. Community service is a recurring theme in every piece of literature we read with the FFA logo printed on it. Thus, both organizations are in sync, which makes for an ideal partnership. FFA grows leaders. Our members want to hire them.

In short, the asphalt pavement industry needs inspirational young men and women to replace retiring baby boomers. FFA members typically grow up with heavy equipment, often in rural areas or in smaller towns where our member firms have asphalt plants. And, since many FFA members are looking for alternative career paths, with or without college, that lead to high paying, fulfilling, and stable careers, it just makes sense to work together.