High tech companies create construction boom


There are apprentices in the Sheet Metal Workers Union, Local 104 training program. There are three classes underway now with about 75 enrolled. That compares to just one class three years ago during the recession. And here's the reason. The flurry of new construction projects now underway, or soon to be started, by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Samsung.

"These apprentices that are just now coming in are excited about these projects. And they actually talk about these projects among themselves," said Mark Van Den Heuvel, the Local 104 business representative.

During the recession, construction unemployment hit 30 percent. The high tech boom has given new hope to people like 38-year-old Adam Gonzales, who is switching trades.

"Being in the Local 104 Sheet Metal Union, I was able to marry my wife and plan on having just a normal life and settling down and having the income to afford more than just beans and rice," said Adam Gonzales, an apprentice sheet metal worker.

The Google complex to be built in Mountain View and the new Samsung tower that broke ground last week may create about 2,500 construction jobs.

Apple's gargantuan $4-5 billion spaceship headquarters in Cupertino could easily surpass that number, although the contractor didn't respond to our call to get an estimate.

However, there is concern how many local workers will be hired. Ben Field is executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council.

"There are a lot more local construction jobs, but a lot of the big construction projects that are coming are going to bring in workers from out of the state or out of the area," said Ben Field South Bay Labor Council Exec. Officer

Big projects involve general contractors and many sub-contractors, each free to hire their own trades people.

The Joint Apprenticeship Training Council is working to make sure the pipeline filled in order to work on these high tech projects. It's recruiting at schools and job fairs and reaching out to returning vets.

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