Renovations at Blue Lake Regional Park began earlier this year, with crews preparing to install a new water line and boost fire safety. Now preparations are underway for the next phase of improvements at the park, starting with the demolition and replacement of the Curry Building, which serves as the home base for most of Metro’s park maintenance operations.
It’s a big step forward for the renovations plan, and an even bigger step forward for Metro. This project will be the first at Metro to employ the Construction Career Pathways framework, a plan to increase access to the trades for women and people of color in greater Portland.
“We launched the Construction Careers Pathways Project to make a leap forward for an equitable economy while supporting our construction industry,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. “We're excited to see that work get underway."
The Construction Career Pathways policy framework outlines seven critical strategies to provide reliable career pathways for women and people of color in the construction industry. These strategies were developed by a workgroup of 16 public agencies, and included significant input from industry and community stakeholders. Currently, six agencies across the region have formally adopted the framework.
“What we want to have is a job site where anybody who comes on that job knows that they have a welcoming place to work,” Gerry Hein, a project director with Hoffman Construction, told Metro. “That they’ve got a fighting chance of learning what they’re supposed to be learning, earning a good paycheck [and] developing their careers.”
The Construction Careers Pathways Program is important for Oregon’s economy for several reasons. About a fifth of the region’s skilled trades workers are nearing retirement age. The region is expected to need about 15,000 more construction jobs in the decade to come. Breaking down barriers to employment for women and people of color and helping them grow trade careers will make it easier for greater Portland construction companies to keep pace with the region’s growth.
Beginning with the replacement of the aging Curry Building, Metro will now include clear diversity goals in all of its construction project proposals. When those proposals go out to contractors, anyone who meets the requirements can bid on the job. Because other public agencies around the region have the same goals, diverse workers are more likely to build a career through opportunities working on public construction projects.
That cooperation and collaboration across the region are key to shifting the construction industry and creating work for women and people of color. It’s also a big change in how agencies approach the issue, according to Tiffany Thompson, Metro project manager for Construction Career Pathways.
“We’re engaging in it as a region, fulfilling our commitments to the community and working to impact a regional industry,” Thompson said. “This is the first time we’ve seen agencies come together like this.”
In addition to effecting meaningful change for workers in the construction industry, the Construction Career Pathways framework aims to keep costs low for taxpayers. By strengthening and diversifying the workforce, the program ensures more contractors are able to find skilled workers for their projects, and over time, more contractors will be able to competitively bid on public projects. That means bids are more competitive, and agencies can be more economical with taxpayer dollars.
"Increasing access to the trades is a huge part of our regional economic development,” Peterson said. “Metro's work to break down barriers to employment for women and people of color will provide economic and social benefits for generations to come.”