Let’s pull together to solve workforce retention issues

Business Partners,

First, I would like to say thank you to the many great SSMRC business partners, whether you are a partnering contractor or a facility owner. My staff and our members thank you as well. Without you, our membership would not have the opportunity to support themselves and their families under the conditions they currently enjoy. Business partners are necessities, and great business partners are truly blessings. The Southern States Millwright Regional Council currently has 200 active partnering contractors and another 33 that for one reason or another did not work in our jurisdiction during 2021. I could attempt to give you a facility-owner number, but it would be an educated guess as many owners have multiple facilities and we have multiple partnering contractors working in single facilities.

Allow me to share a few workforce-development stats. The SSMRC currently has 5,890 members. We know that number fluctuates from month to month, and, in some instances, it might fluctuate daily. To get to my point, let’s use the 12/31/2020 membership number of 5,563 and the 12/31/2021 membership number of 5,677. One could assume the SSMRC took in 114 new members during the calendar year of 2021. In reality, the nine locals within the SSMRC took in 711 members, of which 585 were new to the organization and 126 were individuals who were reinitiated or reinstated. Either way, that is a lot of unseen leg work to grow our council. We have a large number of applicants who don’t stay with us due to reasons beyond our control (lack of consistent work, the job isn’t what they thought it would be, not liking the lifestyle, too much travel or time away from family, etc.). You might ask how we can improve our retention.

Now here is where the ask comes. I am asking all our business partners to consider the retention issue we all face. For the SSMRC to continue delivering our value proposition – providing safe, professional, productive millwrights who help owners get their product to market efficiently and keep that product there the longest possible duration – we need consistency in the message and opportunity provided to future SSMRC members and business-partner employees. I am asking our business partners to commit to making apprentices an average of 20% of the millwright workforce on your projects. I am asking that 50% of those apprentices be first- and second-year apprentices. I am asking that we all insist that these members and employees go to their assigned apprenticeship classes – no excuses, no ridiculous exceptions. I am asking that we all encourage journey-level upgrade classes. Without class and shop training, these members do not get the basic knowledge necessary to be safe, professional, productive millwrights. Without journey-level upgrade training, we will not keep pace with ever-changing industrial needs. I am asking our partners to commit to on-the-job training so that members and employees gain real-word experience with technical guidance. With all of us pulling in the same direction, we can achieve a sustainable workforce for the future. If we do not commit to improved training and consistent opportunity, we – the SSMRC, partnering contractors, and facility owners – will continue to struggle with retention issues, bringing shame on us all.

In closing, I thank you for your time, commitment, and perseverance. Consider how we all can improve. Let’s collaborate for improvement and success for everyone involved. Remember safe, professional, productive millwrights are created through training and real-world experience. They don’t simply materialize. If there is anything the SSMRC can do to reasonably assist our business partners, please let us know. We are always open to feedback for improvement.  


Allen (Wayne) Jennings
Executive Secretary Treasurer