A workgroup tasked with developing a regional approach to recruiting and retaining more women and communities of color in the construction-related trades kicked off its work Friday.
The Public Owner Workgroup is a key piece of Metro's Construction Career Pathways Project. The effort is aimed at bringing together regional stakeholders to learn more about barriers to stable career paths and identify strategies to achieve equity in the construction workforce, an industry that provides high-paying jobs but has historically been out of reach for women and communities of color.
Raahi Reddy, director of Metro's diversity, equity and inclusion program, said the work of C2P2 is grounded in the agency's strategic plan to advance racial equity.
"When we did a series of engagement with community partners about how we achieve equity in this region, folks really identified the construction sector as a place that is both riddled with racial barriers and a place of incredible opportunity to raise wages, lift incomes and build the kinds of families and communities that we need," she said.
The workgroup, whose members represent 16 public agencies across the region, will meet monthly for the next year.
The group's work will be facilitated by Estolano LeSar Advisors, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in working with multi-stakeholder groups to address complex public policy and social equity issues.
The first phase involves developing an understanding of how the region is doing in promoting construction careers for people of color and women, examining best practices and identifying priorities.
During Friday's meeting, the group discussed the elements necessary for a successful construction careers policy, borrowing best practices from the UCLA Labor Center's "Exploring Targeted Hire" study.
The elements include:
- Setting realistic targeted hire goals;
- Engaging stakeholders early in the process;
- Educating everyone on the individual and collective goals and responsibilities and making sure ongoing resources are dedicated to supporting the policy;
- Providing contractors support and mentorship opportunities;
- Creating partnerships with community-based organizations and providing funding and resources to recruit targeted workers;
- Investing in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs; and
- Enacting a clear reporting and compliance system
For the group's next meeting, each agency is tasked with assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of their policies to look at how they are doing and acknowledge the areas where they can improve.
In the second and third phases, the group will draft a regional framework and begin implementing the structure and processes that were outlined.
Cecilia Estolano, the lead facilitator, said she expects the group to wrap up the majority of its work by May 2019.
"We hope to have a framework where folks have cooperated and collaborated on a comprehensive system that all of the agencies can use to achieve their goals," she said. "On their own, they're doing bits but if they really want to have impact, they have to work collaboratively."
Estolano said the idea is for them to share resources and have a framework, common measurements and common tools to help them fill in the gaps.
For example, she said it's unlikely that the demand for workers could be filled through pre-apprenticeship programs alone.
"We're going to have to find some other way to get those workers in the next 10 years and keep them in," she said. "Collectively, this group can think about what other resources we can access, what some grant funds are or how we can leverage what somebody's doing really well for the rest of the group."
After the year is up, the group will continue to monitor and evaluate its efforts, possibly through quarterly reports or a community advisory group.
In addition to the Public Owner Workgroup, Metro will also be convening other stakeholder groups at the same time, including state building trades, prime and subcontractors, minority contractors, pre-apprenticeship programs and community-based organizations.
"Our goal and our hope is that we are moving these discussions and ground-truthing them with people that are actually in the system and working with us," Reddy said. "As we're developing our concepts and strategies, they're getting a chance to weigh in and bring that feedback."