04 17 2014
  4:05 am  
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Their plan: boost the trades by boosting the most underrepresented communities within them.
For women and people of color looking for a career that pays family wages, the time has never been better to step up to the plate.
As Portland's construction contractors are poised to build a handful of huge projects over the next five years, one nonprofit group is reaching out to bring more women and people of color into the construction trades: Construction Apprenticeship and Workforce Solutions, Inc.
The corporation was created by a coalition of dozens of construction companies, workforce training organizations and local government agencies to turn around what is expected to become a shortage of construction workers spanning the next 10 years.
Their plan: boost the trades by boosting the most underrepresented communities within them.
"Our mission is to diversify the workforce and we are approaching that through many venues," says Debra Lindsey CAWS project manager. "Our members include the supply side and the man side – training, preparing folks to become successful in the field."
Corporate CAWS members such as Hoffman Construction, Howard S. Wright Constructors, Walsh Construction, and Turner Construction, to name a few, get big contracts for construction jobs – such as the Port of Portland's state of the art new headquarters adjacent to the airport.
The corporations work with community groups including Worksystems, Inc., Oregon Tradeswomen, the Youth Employment Institute and others to match workers with mentors in their field of interest working in important construction projects.
Lindsey says the effort's main focus is in pre-apprenticeship programs certified by both the Bureau of Labor and Industry and CAWS itself, working with those who already have a level of training and meet certification standards.
"We're discovering that there's a gap between getting that apprenticeship training and getting actual experience," Lindsey said. "These are not apprenticeship positions, but rather classified workers — so it is not undercutting apprentices because it is the pre-apprentice positions we are targeting at this time."
For women and people of color looking for a career that pays family wages, the time has never been better to step up to the plate.
"So the goal is to get them that – to make folks competitive," Lindsay says.
Construction contracting is one industry where business owners in the Portland area are making a conscious decision to level the racial and gender playing fields.
"A lot of companies are approaching us and want to impose owner-imposed diversity goals," she says.
For example, Hoffman Construction, one of the major companies working on the Port of Portland headquarters, has set its own diversity goals for hiring and work on the site.
For their part, CAWS subsidizes 50 percent of a the wages of a worker, up to $18 an hour, for a 12-week pre-internship program.
"Our hope is that it will be a win-win experience for all," Lindsay says, "that the applicants will get jobs from the companies involved."

For information on how to enroll in the program, or how to employ clients in the program, go to www.caws-pdx.org.

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