When is a laborer not just a laborer?

Often I receive calls from General Contractors asking if the trainees have any construction skills; yesterday I received such a call from a business owner in Brooklyn.

He wanted to know if I had anyone that could paint or lay tile, not just labor “because there is not a shortage of labor”. His comment made me pause.

There may be no shortage of bodies, no shortage of men and women that will go through the steps of taking the OSHA certification training (throwing a flagger and scaffolding cert in the mix for no good reason), I would argue that there IS a shortage of individuals who understand how the construction industry works (from Developer to Laborer) and what kind of life it can offer them and their families, if they are willing to commit their lives to build a career in construction, as opposed to a job.

There is a striking difference between a job and a career. Our men and women build careers.

They do this by learning, gaining skills and experiences that make them better; smarter, faster, stronger.

These are our trainees.

When someone approaches me to join our training program, they are vetted.

Not by what TABE score they have.

Not by whether they have a diploma or GED.

Not by their skin color, social status or past.

They are vetted on whether they are willing to work the next 18 months, training and learning, to build a new life and become a Skilled Trades Person in Construction.

They are on jobsites and a classroom the entire 18 months, so what they are committing to are long and challenging days; working during the day (typically 7am-3:30pm) and school at night (typically 5:30-9:00).

They are told over and over that they must do the work themselves, becoming proactive and get after the life they want for themselves and their families. We are merely a tool on their journey. The starting point on a longer road of hard work, education and self determination.

The parameters are strict; if they are late for class or work they are ejected. If they miss a day without giving appropriate notice, they are ejected (even with notice, they are unable to miss one day of class for the first cycles of training). If they fail to participate in class they are ejected or invited to attend the same level of training again. I often say “I don’t need warm bodies, I need active minds.”

The commitment is high; they must deal with outside requirements and prioritize who and what they are committing their time to. Without this discipline of attention they lose focus and soon drift off the path.

The rewards are great; for both our Employee Partners and Trainee. Our Partners hire Laborers who are committed to their growth, education and future; committed to being better in all aspects of their lives.

Our trainees are much more then warm bodies that push brooms, they are engaged learners and as our Employee Partners know, they are lucky to have them.

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