For more than 20 years, Aaron West has been at the table while major decisions about land use and development have been hammered out.
Today, he’s bringing his experience to benefit Nevada Builders, the largest construction industry organization in Nevada and a statewide advocate for the construction industry.
Aaron is well-prepared for that role.
He began as a water rights specialist, construction services manager, project engineer, senior planner and location principal for Lumos & Associates, a major civil engineering and planning firm in the region.
Aaron held key positions as director of land and real estate for a big homebuilder and an outdoor advertising company, worked as a broker and entitlements specialist with NAI Alliance and learned the insurance industry as a commercial-lines producer.
At the same time, he volunteered more than five years as chair of government affairs for NAIOP Northern Nevada, and he held a similar position with the Builders Association of Western Nevada.
A native of northern Nevada, Aaron’s career and volunteer activities have reflected his strong commitment to the region.
He answers our questions:
1. When you were young, what drew you into this profession?
My family built its first house when I was 10 years old, and I spent a lot of time as the gopher and doing clean-up. By the time I was 21, I was a part of building three other houses for family and friends and was starting my first house from scratch. I had become a proficient draftsman in high school and had turned that into a job with Lumos Engineering and side business drawing house plans for local contractors. Looking back I never contemplated running a non-profit, but I am thankful for all the mentors I had during the various twists and turns in life that got me to where I am now.
2. How does the wide range of your professional experience inform your work with Nevada Builders Alliance?
My aforementioned experience in construction provides the passion for the industry that drives me every day. All of my work in planning, entitlement and development gave me the experience in public speaking and advocacy that led to my legislative involvement. In partnership with Pro Group Management, Nevada Builders has created the most successful workers compensation captive in the state and being a licensed insurance producer gives me a great background in supporting that program. The construction industry, as a whole, is represented by so many diverse professions, occupations and specialties, all with specific interests and needs. The diversity of my work experience allows me to address each of these and communicate on many levels through numerous channels.
3. As skilled crafts workers become in higher demand in the region’s construction industry, how should we go about developing the workforce we need?
For too many years, we have been telling our kids to work smarter, not harder. Pushing these kids to go to college at any cost without placing any value on developing skills and implying that any form of manual labor is beneath them. This is not only affecting construction; manufacturing and numerous other industries are suffering. This is not to say that I am anti-college degree or post-secondary education, I just can’t accept the notion that skill-based careers are a last resort. Instead, they need to be considered as a meaningful, financially beneficial, in-demand career choice. Through a lot of energy, effort and collaboration we are finally starting to change the conversation. That conversation has to start at a young age, and remain consistent through graduation. I know that expanding Career and Technical Education in public schools is difficult because of the cost and lack of available instructors, but we have to continue to explore creative solutions.
4. What part of your current position is the most satisfying? The most challenging?
Satisfying: Finding a random person that is disadvantaged or under-employed and providing them the opportunity to succeed in a career. Through our relationship with JOIN Inc. we take these folks and add to their skill set through education and training, then place them with our member companies for on-the-job training. The program is fully funded which takes the burden off the employee and employer, and it is awesome to see everyone benefit. Challenging: Advocating on behalf of the industry in an environment that just continues to deteriorate in congeniality and professionalism, as the ideological divide continues to widen.
5. What are the priorities of the Alliance in the 2017 session of the Nevada Legislature?
We were very fortunate in the 2015 session to have received some long-overdue relief from laws and policies that were crippling the industry. Our focus in 2017 will be to hold on to those successes and work aggressively to expand the state’s workforce development activities. We must modify our education and training infrastructure to meet the demands of the jobs being created in today’s Nevada.