Things are tough in the construction industry these days. There is, however, a silver lining in this dark cloud and that is over the long term many construction companies, and Latino workers, will be better off than we were before.
There is a current shakedown in the construction industry that is allowing two very important things to happen that will benefit both the organization and the workers–a refocus on training the workforce and a clean up of the subcontractor industry.
Refocus on Training the WorkforceThe present shakedown is allowing established construction companies to refocus their efforts on the proper development of a trained, skilled and long-term workforce.
The bubble has burst on the construction industry, and we are seeing many companies come back and retrofit their own approach to recruiting, hiring and training.
This is a very good thing in the long run, both for the companies and their Latino employees. For a long time, companies were simply hiring “warm bodies” to fill positions that simply required someone who could do physical labor. Many companies are now rethinking this flawed approach to business.
In the short term, this is a very tough situation for Latinos. Many workers have lost their jobs during this pinch. Others have had to look for lower-paying jobs.
One person told me he was making $16 an hour hanging drywall but now works on a landscape crew making $8 an hour. No matter how you cut the grass, that is half the money as before, and that puts a serious strain on the family budget.
The good thing here for both Latinos and corporations is that now there is an opportunity to refocus efforts on recruiting, hiring and training a workforce that is both skilled and long-term. Hopefully, more executives have learned the necessity of building a company that is both balanced and stable. This means building organizations that have sustainable and healthy growth.
Cleaning Up the Subcontractor IndustryMany Latino subcontractors have been driven out of business. Ironically, it will prove to be a good thing in the long term. Many of these subcontractors operated their businesses in very flawed and sometimes illegal manners. I know of many who would bill the general contractor and then pay workers in cash, having no regard for tax laws or the like.
Though this segment of employers has produced many jobs, they are typically not stable jobs, and often the employees are not treated well. Latinos who open businesses should function within the confines of the law, as well as be held accountable for their business practices by the general contractors who employ their services. Some contractors say it is not their concern but, any time we are knowingly a part of a system that is illegal, it is our concern.
TrainingDistributors of construction-related products could play a strategic role in helping these subcontractors learn to operate more professional and profitable businesses. The distribution centers are a direct point of contact for the subcontractors. They have to purchase materials and they do so at the distribution outlets. I encourage all major distributors in the country to consider the development of this type of value-added training program for Latino subcontractors if they do not presently conduct one. The business logic is sound; we teach them how to operate more successful businesses which in turn translates to solid and profitable companies who become long-term loyal clients.
Many times, in the existing subcontractor world, workers are paid in an illegal cash system and little if any job skills or safety training is offered. This lack of training is also one of the main sources of safety accidents among the Latino workforce.
Contractors should require minimum standards of training along with proper and legal payment of the workforce. Unfortunately, in many cases relating to the labor force, we have immigrated the same attitudes and practices from some of our native countries.
The current shakedown in the construction industry can be a good thing. I have spoken with and worked with many leaders in this industry and find it refreshing to hear them talk so much about using this time to develop better recruiting and hiring systems, better training systems and overall better companies. I encourage you to do the same! It will make you a stronger organization with higher long-term value.
If you would like some more information on how to make your job with Latinos even easier, I offer you The Weekly Executive González Report. Sent once a week free of charge, it covers everything you need to know to stay up on working with and doing business with Latinos. Send me an e-mail at the address below if you want to receive it. We’ll add you to the list.