Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Service of On the Job Training

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Last Saturday morning Lou Manfredini interviewed Paul Robinson on his weekly WABC HouseSmarts Radio program. I no longer have a house but many of Lou’s tips that solve callers’ challenges also apply to apartment dwellers. And Lou is fun to listen to.

Robinson is founder and CEO of ConstructReach, St. Louis, Mo. Its objective is to train high school students and enlighten them–and their parents–about the construction industry as a passport to a good living. At the same time the organization is creating a crucial trained workforce.

In particular, Robinson described the “I Built It” program. “High-school students aged 16 to 18 from neighboring school districts will gather at Target stores in Los Angeles, Calif., Denver, Co., St. Louis, Mo., and Miami, Fla., to learn about the construction industry and participate in elements of the stores’ remodel.” Vincent Salandro wrote about the “I Built It” program in Remodeling magazine.

Salandro continued: “The company aims to connect general contractors to interns and to create content and experiences to expose a diverse population to sustainable construction careers. It also fosters close relationships with educators to work on closing the gap between the industry and educators. Educators are on the front line and are in ‘a prime position’ to speak to young people and their families about the next steps in life, Robinson said, and ensuring construction has a place in those conversations is important for the future of the industry.”

The construction industry has bad PR: People consider that students “fail into it,” according to Robinson, and educators, parents and kids need to be shown an accurate perspective. In addition, “More than half of skilled workers are nearing retirement age and the industry is not doing a good job of filling those positions at the same rate they will be vacated,” reported Salandro.

Robinson told Salandro, “If you’re not exposed to what you can do, or what’s in front of you, that’s a lot of untapped potential.”

I represented building products and industry trade organizations for years and have long felt that little is done to elevate/recognize the significance of careers in building trades. Kudos to Robinson!

Further, as a former homeowner, I lived and suffered by my appalling lack of skills and knowledge in plumbing, electricity, laying flooring, painting, plastering, how a furnace works and so forth. I wish I’d been trained and think that if these skills were taught in college–or made available to students–it would benefit them and automatically elevate the trades in the eyes of those with doubts. I went to a private NYC school that didn’t teach typing but in high school a bunch of us attended the Y to learn what turned out to be an essential skill. What do you think?

Paul Robinson, ConstructReach Founder

 

Service of Pride in Work

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Photo: youtube

Hair-raising

I have been going to the same hair stylist and salon for years. Support staff in the establishment changes frequently. Most recently this neighborhood business hired a hair washer who, when he’s finished rinsing, adds a spectacular head massage for minutes–no extra charge [though my appreciation appears in his tip]. Heaven. When not washing hair he never sits still, sweeping away every hair practically as soon as it hits the bright white floor. Who knows if he loves what he does but his pleasant nature and fervor insure that he’ll always get work. He’s at the salon a few days a week and is a bartender at night.

Hauntingly Charming

I forgot I’d dashed off a note to the manager of my apartment building. I admired the fall decorations that appeared in the entrance early in the month and the abundant flowers planted outside. When I passed him in the lobby weeks later he beamed and thanked me for my note. I’ve written before about him and the 510 apartments he oversees. He runs the 38 story building as though it was his private home.

Brick by Brick

In the 30s, east of Second Avenue in Manhattan, there are sterile streets spanning two blocks–no stores, no doors to apartments or offices–just road and narrow sidewalks on either side, which is unusual. The passages permit vehicles quick access to the Midtown Tunnel that runs under the East River connecting this borough and Queens.

I walk through one almost daily on my way to and from work [photo left and below]. It was out of commission and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for a few days to lay down new sidewalks and brick walls. This particular morning a crew was adding some finishing touches. As I sauntered past I said to the crew chief “looking good” and he stopped me to point out particulars of his men’s handiwork. He was so pleased someone noticed the brickwork and sidewalks and joyfully shared some finer points.

It is a pleasure to be around people who act as though they like what they do, who do their work well and with pride. Can you share examples?

Service of Women Construction Workers: Positive Political Impact?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

A few weeks ago I was walking in midtown Manhattan and was taken by the sign above. That’s why Anne Kadet’s Wall Street Journal article also caught my eye: “Yes They Can! Program Boosts Number of Women Construction Workers–New York City’s construction unions say the portion of apprentice slots reserved for women has risen from 10% to 15%, and most are filled with graduates of the Nontraditional Employment for Women [NEW].”

Kadet wrote that the seven week tuition-free training program is done in a former Manhattan firehouse. The Blue Collar Prep program includes carpentry, electrical work, trades math, health and safety.

According to its website, the program was founded in 1978: NEW “prepares women for careers in construction, transportation, energy and facilities maintenance industries.”

Photo; new-nyc.org

Kadet reported: “NEW recruits and trains about 225 women a year to enter apprentice programs offered by the city’s construction unions…… Nationally and citywide, women fill just 3% of construction jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. NEW and union officials say that as a result of their unusual efforts, women represent more than 6% of the New York area’s roughly 100,000 union construction workers.”

Jennifer Wilkerson with the National Center for Construction Education and Research [NCCER] pointed to an anticipated shortage of trades workers, the strikingly low number of women currently in the industry and the fact that many women aren’t aware of the opportunities for them. Hopefully the word will spread about this way for women to make a lucrative living and more will.

“NEW’s incoming students usually earn low wages in traditionally female occupations, said Erik Antokal, the group’s assistant vice president for programming. Union construction jobs, meanwhile, typically pay $40 to $60 an hour, plus full benefits. ‘These are family-sustaining, middle-class jobs,’ he said.”

Photo: youtube.com

According to Kadet, “Some still have a hard time accepting women in hard hats. But NEW grad Erika Glenn-Byam said the culture has improved since she started working as a laborer in 2006. On one of her first jobs, a co-worker confessed that the men on her crew shared a secret motto: ‘Get rid of the women!’

“‘You guys need to grow up,” she told him.” After 13 years as a laborer she is buying a two-family house for herself, her mother and brother who has Down syndrome.

I admire people with construction skills and almost daily wish I had some. I’d not heard of NEW or programs like it for women–have you?– yet it’s been around for 41 years.

What do you think of women in construction? As their numbers increase do you think it will inflame resentment by men feeling women are increasingly infringing on their world or because it seems to be working, might it assuage tensions between men and women in certain industries with positive political ramifications for women?

Photo: nwic.org

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