Reasons why Mayor de Blasio’s Employment Plan won’t work for the construction industry

There are a variety of ways de Blasio’s plan differs from his predecessors’. Last week we touched on the basics of both plans. This week we will look into the employment initiatives that were tied to the affordable housing plans.

Bloomberg made no promises as part of his affordable housing plan, but jobs were added to the undulating numbers. To be fair, we were in the middle of the recession so the gains to employment were valuable.

In the Mayor’s State of the City Speech this year, Mayor de Blasio states that we must “commit ourselves to creating affordable housing on an unprecedented level. But we have farther to go. We’re proud of the jobs we’ve created. But we have to create more. They have to be better. We need to know that people can make a decent living. They need to know they can stay here. That is our mission.”

According to his employment plan (aptly named New York Works which was released last week, a glossy full covered book with 114 pages, listing 25 job-creation initiatives) the plan calls for not only 100,000 well paying NEW jobs for New Yorkers, but an additional 240,000 construction jobs generated from City investment.

The plan was born of a pledge made in February and in the following months his economic development team busily found ways to make good on his promise.

Not everyone was happy. Jesse Laymon, director of policy and advocacy at the New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC) stated in a WSJ article, “What the city ought to be focusing on is helping those new Yorkers get the training, the skills, the credentials they would need to get those jobs now.”

In 2016 New York City produced an average of 146,200 construction jobs, a 5 percent increase from 2015, when 139,200 jobs were created. Based on an analysis of jobs data from the first half of this year, the Building Congress estimates construction employment will continue to rise to 147,800 jobs in 2017. [NYCR]

That’s a 30% growth rate in the past 5 years. New York Building Congress (NYBC) president and CEO Carlo A. Scissura notes, “Just as importantly, about three-quarters of these well-paying jobs are going to residents of the five boroughs, further strengthening the city’s economy and tax base.” The affordable housing market is driving this surge.

Still other reports have indicated that the skilled construction labor force is “overstretched”, with ⅔ having a hard time finding labor skilled enough to complete jobs on time. [WSJ]

Going back to Mayor de Blasio’s speech this February, he stated, “A good job gives a worker skills that they cannot just use immediately, but for years and decades to come, that allow them to keep going further and further. Again, these are jobs that we will make available whether people have pre-existing skills or not. We’re going to provide the training and the support.”

And that would be great, if training for the construction industry had been part of his employment plan, but it wasn’t.

So who is training the incoming construction workers to fill these jobs?

There are a number of great initiatives that train construction workers, The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills is one, Non Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) is another. Unfortunately these two along with the majority of training institutions funnel their participants towards union work.

I have found one, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI) has a variety of programs and can actually tailor skill based training alongside key area partners to provide customized employer training.

With the growth of the construction sector showing no signs of slowing, there are some of us who pay our workers a livable wage (in line with union wages) and who are desperate for skilled laborers to enable us to take on more work and grown our business. My hope is that places like BWI can keep up.

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