AGC launches program to diversify construction workforce
- Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, announced a new association program aimed at recruiting a more diverse pool of workers into the construction industry through vocational training that targets women and minority high school students in New York City and around the U.S., Spectrum News NY1 reported.
- Sandherr, The New York Daily News reported, told those gathered on the steps of New York City Hall in Manhattan that the makeup of the construction industry is primarily white and male but should be more aligned with that of the rest of the American workforce. "If the construction industry cannot find an effective way to recruit, hire and develop a more diverse workforce," Sandherr said, "we won’t be able to keep pace with demand."
- Despite the AGC’s announcement that it would help pay for high school career and technical training, critics said the push could keep poor and minority students from pursuing a four-year degree and that such a program would be deficient if it does not include information on how to build a business in the trades as well. In addition, Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, told the Daily News that the emphasis should be on programs that encourage, or even require, contractors to partner with minority- and women-owned businesses, not just hire them as subcontractors.
All educational opportunities, according to the New York State chapter of the AGC, can create a path to the construction industry. Craft and technology training can lead to a career in the trades, whereas training via a community college or technical institution can see students eventually in such positions as foreman, safety director, estimator, project manager and executive management or ownership. Four-year degree programs for construction managers, architects and engineers offer entryways into the industry as well.
To keep up with the projected volume of work in the U.S. — a $600 billion annual increase, according to AGC NYS — craft workers are going to be the ones in short supply, however, and the industry will need an estimated 240,000 new trade professionals each year to keep pace.
Despite previous initiatives to bring minorities and women into the construction workforce, they still represent a fraction of workers, as Sandherr mentioned in his public statements this week. Women accounted for just about 9% of the 2017 U.S. construction workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the number of Asians at just 1.9%. The BLS said the number of African Americans in the industry was at 6.1%, while Hispanics accounted for almost 30% of the workforce.
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