The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in reaction to the announcement made today that the U.S. Department of Transportation will launch a new pilot project to allow states to impose local hire programs on highway construction programs:
“We share the administration’s desire to see more people – particularly from disadvantaged areas – enter the middle class via high paid construction careers. That is precisely why we have launched a nationwide digital advertising campaign to recruit more people – especially more diverse individuals – into the profession. That is also why we created our Culture of Care program designed to make sure construction firms and project sites are more welcoming and inclusive, particularly to workers of diverse backgrounds.
“The problem with local hire programs, however, is that they solve the symptom and not the problem. Our members are desperate to hire workers and would love to hire local employees where they do business. But too many communities have defunded their career and technical education programs and as a result, there are often too few local workers with any interest in construction careers or basic skills that would make them qualified to be hired. Local hire programs let communities off the hook for failing to provide sufficient career and technical education options to meet employer needs. As a result, we have seen some local hire programs where 80 percent of people hired from local communities choose to leave the job before the project is even finished.
“If this administration shares our goal of elevating more people into the middle class via construction careers, then the best path would be to significantly boost investments in career and technical education programs so we can expose more students to the fact that construction is a viable career choice and one that pays very well. These investments would also provide community members with the basic skills needed to make them viable candidates, and to protect them and their coworkers on the job.”