Cities help match em­ploy­ees to con­struc­tion projects

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY JOE GOSE

the pro­gram, was ac­cepted and com­pleted six weeks of train­ing in early Septem­ber. He then be­gan work­ing at the arena and was re­cently in­stalling in­su­la­tion and acous­ti­cal ceil­ing tiles above the War­riors’ prac­tice court.

“I’m very for­tu­nate to have a job and be part of this,” he said. “I was do­ing lit­tle de­liv­ery jobs, just to get by with the bills, and was re­ally close to be­ing home­less.”

Gavi­ola’s ex­pe­ri­ence mir­rors that of hun­dreds of oth­ers na­tion­wide as de­mand for con­struc­tion la­bor outstrips sup­ply. Eighty per­cent of con­trac­tors were hav­ing trou­ble find­ing skilled work­ers, ac­cord­ing to a na­tional sur­vey re­leased last year by the As­so­ci­ated Gen­eral Con­trac­tors of Amer­ica trade group and soft­ware de­signer Au­todesk.

Com­pe­ti­tion for work­ers over­all has been heat­ing up. De­cem­ber was one of the strong­est months of job gains in the last decade, with em­ploy­ers adding 312,000 to pay­rolls, the La­bor Depart­ment re­ported Fri­day.

Fac­ing a tight la­bor pool, de­vel­op­ers, pub­lic of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions are us­ing com­mer­cial projects to pro­vide res­i­dents with ca­reers in con­struc­tion. To­gether, they’re mak­ing an ef­fort to re­cruit men and women from im­pov­er­ished neighborhoods or chal­lenged pop­u­la­tions, such as for­mer prison in­mates. In boom­ing mar­kets like San Fran­cisco, Den­ver and Mi­ami, where gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is squeez­ing af­ford­able hous­ing, de­mand for these types of pro­grams is grow­ing.

The train­ing pro­grams are also oc­cur­ring in smaller mar­kets. In Mil­wau­kee, for ex­am­ple, Gor­man & Co., an apart­ment de­vel­oper, has teamed up with city, state and com­mu­nity agen­cies to give for­mer in­mates on-the-job train­ing restor­ing di­lap­i­dated, tax­fore­closed homes, which are then rented to low­in­come earn­ers.

“There’s a very lim­ited num­ber of jobs that peo­ple re-en­ter­ing so­ci­ety can do, but they are key to our suc­cess,” said Ted Matkom, pres­i­dent of the Wis­con­sin mar­ket for Gor­man. “They can earn a good wage and are mo­ti­vated.”

In some cases, con­trac­tors are re­quired to meet lo­cal hir­ing tar­gets, par­tic­u­larly on big projects that in­clude in­cen­tives or are pro­vid­ing a pub­lic ben­e­fit. Cities and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions are re­cruit­ing and train­ing work­ers to help builders meet the thresh­olds.

In ad­di­tion to classes, the pro­grams of­ten pro­vide tools, boots and other equip­ment to the can­di­dates, and they pay for items such as ap­pren­tice ap­pli­ca­tion fees, child care and gas. Case man­agers at the or­ga­ni­za­tions even en­sure newly em­ployed grads get wake-up calls.

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