What we've been up to

Six months. We’ve been working for six months. By “we” I mean a small, sometimes rotating, group of about six, sometimes more, most often it’s less. But we have all had an impression and an imprint on how this project is shaped, creating parameters with our current limitations, even as we peer over them as you would a privacy fence. Or maybe you don’t, maybe you keep within your parameters as most well behaved people do. Not me. I’m naturally nosy and inquisitive, which is a nice way of saying I poke at things until they make sense to me.

It’s how I went from Interior Design to Construction. I wasn’t curious about what covered the wall, I wanted to know what the wall was made of, what kept the floor from falling in, how the buildings were put together.

I’m also a horrible employee. I like being the decider. People take to long to make basic decisions and they get distracted by insignificant, momentary, ego driven pursuits and it’s always frustrated me. It was a given I would own my own construction company.

But I’m also not a book learner, I learn by doing and making mistakes. Lots of mistakes. They are all lessons I treasure and have made me more critical of those with silver tongues selling castles in the sky, but also more open hearted towards those who get shafted by life, the laws and people’s ability to manipulate them against someone else. My lessons have made me fiercely protective over those that I believe need protection and less inclined to listen to those with a plethora of opportunity bitch and moan over their Chai Latte.

“Fall down seven times, get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. So keep moving, keep growing, keep learning.” Denzel Washington

I also have a great deal of respect for what’s termed “transferable skills”, which is a very PC way of saying that the skills learned in the streets can be transferred towards legal endeavors. A high level drug dealer learns basic business skills to become a profitable. This skill is easily transferred into business ownership, the product changes. Catherine Hoke knows this, she’s created a company whose platform is the “transform the hustle” in a Shark Tank-like investment driven program she’s taken across the country.

These programs are important but makes me wonder what happens to the ones that don’t win the investments? There is only one winner in each group, but there are far more men and women in the prison system that have these incredibly valuable skills.

While our programming also has a business building component at the end, we are investing our time on the front end, in programming that’s been called “too long” and “too education based”.

We choose to focus on building viable construction trade skills for everyone that wants to work, block by block, skill by skill with a focus on each individual, getting them ready to work. They are committing to a 40 hour work week plus 16-20 hrs of school on top of that.

Getting them ready to make that time and personal commitment is no small task. We could not do our work with our partnerships with CBO’s (community based organizations). These sister organizations are imperative to our trainees success, helping to get them ready with math and reading skills are evaluated and help is given where needed, by cultivating the mindset of growth and focus straight towards their goal and have realistic expectations for the long road ahead of them.

While some may not be ready “yet”, no one in our programming gets a hard no. We believe in feedback loops. You may be handed a “not yet”, but it’s with a list of things to learn before trying again. We leave the decision of trying again in the hands on the trainee, it is their life after all, but no one will be turned away.

“The only thing you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Tolkein

Time passes at the same rate for us all, we are all given 24 hours. Some of us were given a smorgasport of opportunities, while others made due with what they had, making creative decisions, learning how to bend rules and charm or manipulate (sometimes both) to get what was needed done. To move the needle closer to the goal. We’ve redirected those who are willing and helped them update their goal.

The new goal is to become a skilled tradesperson, then a foreman, then a super, then a project manager, past those hurdles what’s to stop them from owning their own business? It’s just more time and effort towards their goal, both of which they are used to spending.

Focused direction, time well spent, skills accumulate and build a career, healthy habits form, livable wages are made because the value that is brought to the jobsite is unarguable.

“Becoming successful in America is like climbing a ladder. This ladder starts at minimum wage and reaches all the way to two hundred million dollars a year - and more. Why would the marketplace pay someone only minimum wage? The answer is, he or she is not very valuable to the marketplace. That person might be a valuable sibling, a valuable member of the family, a valuable member of the church or a valuable citizen of the country…..But if you’re not very valuable to the marketplace, you won’t earn much money….The key to getting paid very well in the marketplace is to develop very valuable skills.” Jim Rohn

And that’s what we do. The old fashion hands-on way. There are no secrets to this success. It’s hard work. It’s focus. It’s a path. It’s construction and it’s hard and physical and real. But all of our men and women are use to hard and physical and real. We’ve just shown them the path and helped them cultivate focus.

Through book learning and on the job skill building that’s reinforced in the classroom.

Every. Single. Day.

Person. By. Person.

Family. By. Family.

Together we are building a more equitable city. Everyday.

In the coming weeks, you’ll see an uptick in posts, both from me and various members of this ever growing, ever expanding network of amazing people that know the implications and ramifications of an under trained and under performing construction labor force. They know what our training can do for each individual person, but also the impact we can make on the construction industry as a whole within our city. Not only does our training meet Intro 1449 requirements handily, we are able to create knowledgeable, skilled tradesmen/women.

Vivian Mandala is the Director of CMC Workforce, and previous owner of CMConstruction, a sub-contracting firm based in Brooklyn NY. She's worked on construction projects in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens as well as upstate.

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