Cities help match employees to construction projects
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.