Mentoring Tomorrow’s Skilled Laborers and Business Owners

Year after year, the face of construction changes with aging infrastructure and buildings demanding attention from the contractor community and skilled labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that 61,000 more construction jobs were open in 2018 over the same period in the previous year.

In 2017, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the largest network of craftsmen, innovators, and problem-solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities, conducted a survey and discovered 82 percent of respondents believe the availability and cost of labor will be an issue. 

Fast-forward three years to today, and NAHB membership was not mistaken. The challenge to meet the demand for skilled laborers, at an affordable cost, is nearly impossible, and the industry is feeling the effects, presenting an obstacle that requires a solution. 

Arthur Corwin, President of Railroad Construction Company, Inc., (RCC) in Paterson, NJ, states, “Our country has to repair its infrastructure. However, the construction industry lacks the capacity with both skilled craft labor and qualified contractors and subcontractors to safely complete the magnitude of work that is demanding our attention. What better way to fill this void than with an outreach program to MWSDVOBs. We all need this program to be successful if we are going to rebuild our nation.”

RCC is tackling this roadblock head-on, recognizing the answer far surpasses a quick fix. Established in 1926, RCC has developed from a railroad track construction and maintenance contractor into a complete turnkey operation, providing civil construction of facilities, bridges, highways, site work, and utilities. With nine decades in the industry, RCC is familiar with adversity and prepared to do what is required to provide the industry with skilled laborers who are equipped with the necessary resources to be successful.

After months of brainstorming and planning, RCC, along with coordinating and managing partners AEC Business Strategies and LDA Consulting, Inc. established the RCC “Training”-Express Mentor Program. 

The goal of the program is to foster effective long-term business relationships between women, minorities, and service-disabled owned veteran businesses in construction. Furthermore, promoting a diverse workforce. The team believes creating entrepreneurs and skilled laborers will foster new business and meet the demand to provide skilled laborers at a reasonable cost. 

Benefits of Diversity in Construction

Construction relies heavily on teamwork, and studies show that diverse teams are more engaged with one another. With the workforce becoming more diverse, companies will be ahead of the trend.

“There is a lot of competition in this industry, and there are many qualified people who perform a commercially useful function that struggle to compete with companies that have been in the industry for 20 years,” states Catherine Best. 

The goal of any company is to hire the best people. It is imperative that construction companies hire the most qualified workers, but why not create a pool of people from which to choose? 

According to a Gallup report, removing bias from the interview process and hiring on talent or skill alone, leads to 41 percent less absenteeism, 59 percent less turnover, and 70 percent fewer incidents.

Diverse Skills of Diversity Hires

Construction workers need to utilize critical reasoning skills to assess and fix problems. 

Diversity hires bring diverse skills to the team, different perspectives, and multiple problem-solving approaches.

If the goal is to complete work on time and budget, companies will benefit from Diversity hires, ultimately presenting additional opportunities to finish the project successfully. 

Catherine Best has worked with women-, minority-, and service-disable owned veteran businesses for several years and in varying situations, including the suppliers of goods and services to mentor-protégé programs. She can attest to the difference in skillset or ability when compared to non-MWSDVOB vendors is minimal. As Chief Compliance and Diversity Officer, Catherine supports and reinforces RCC’s dedication to performing a good faith effort through all phases of any construction project, allowing qualified subcontractors and suppliers the opportunity to work with an established contractor.

The RCC “Training” Express Mentor Program Process

RCC believes finding skilled talent starts at the high school level. College is not for everyone and mastering technical and interpersonal skills offers high school students alternative options and an employment advantage. 

“In order to secure the future of qualified MWSDVOBs, companies like RCC, who are committed to fostering the growth of MWSDVOB suppliers and subcontractors, have to be involved in providing the proper tools, training and internship opportunities. Without the contractor community support, new sustainable and diverse businesses will struggle to meet the demand, and the entire industry will suffer,” said Best. 

RCC has secured partnerships with the Paterson Charter School, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Bridging the Gap and the GI Go Fund to assist in recruiting students and veterans to fill the craft worker positions. Each session will include a program designed to target a Union Delegate presentation, interpersonal skills, and potential internship and employment opportunities.

The MWSDVOB will follow a similar program format, including presentations from utilities, contractors, and advocacy groups with the potential option for coaching sessions.

Chris Colabella, President of CISLeads, is one of the presenters, training companies to find the right projects to bid. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to help companies improve their skills and grow their businesses” said Colabella.

Applications for students, veterans, and MWSDVOBs are now available at Railroad Construction. The number of participants is limited. Should you have any questions, please contact the Program Coordinators.

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