ABC MA held its first webinar on diversity and inclusion on June 22 and shared information on a new resource for ABC members and experiences and perspectives of members of ABC’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.
As Task Force Chair Luiza Mills (Interstate Electrical Services Corp.) explained, the webinar stems from the mission of the Task Force “to help ABC members hire and develop a diverse and talented workforce and create an inclusive, respectful, welcoming and safe work environment.” The Task Force was established by the ABC Board of Directors in September of 2020. Mills said the Task Force “is an incredible group that not only represents the ABC membership, but has a great outreach of knowledge.”
The new resource unveiled during the webinar is a Tableau Map of Resources, a portal that connects ABC members from across Massachusetts with diversity and inclusion resources in their area. Members can link to Tableau from the ABC website.
One of the organizations included in the Tableau is the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the state agency that helps individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. MRC is active in employment placement for their clients. MRC Director Bill Allen took part in the webinar and highlighted this service as a resource for ABC members.
Allen said his job is to find employers “the most qualified candidate you can get,” not just the most qualified person with a disability. He noted that he works with individuals with a wide range of skill sets – including defense missile engineers – and that his organization can provide customized training. He said in many cases there is no cost to the employer for the training. “We can tap into an array of skill sets across the Commonwealth, said Allen, adding that MRC has a large database of people ready to go to work. You can find our more on MRC and their services through their website.
ABC Director of Workforce Development Steve Sullivan discussed ABC’s efforts in pre-apprenticeship to create a pipeline of new talent. He also urged members to seek out graduates of the PACMAN pre-apprenticeship program that ABC is operating thanks to a state grant. Fifteen graduates of the first cohort from five continents have been placed in the industry, and there are two more cohorts to come.
Sullivan said companies need to think differently about hiring. He urged them to turn to other resources such as government agencies like MRC and community-based organizations.
John Cruz, president and CEO of the Cruz Companies and ABC’s First Vice Chairman, said perspectives of running a 3rd generation minority contracting firm located in the City of Boston. He noted that there are some similar challenges of being a minority and being an open shop contractor in terms of acceptance “based on who you are and not what you can do.” Cruz said diversity and inclusion is important to all contractors because “we need women and minorities to sustain the growth of our industry.”
Fellow Board Member Karl Hudson agreed, citing the “alarming rate of retirements” at his company, L.C. Anderson. Hudson also urged members to meet with public officials and urge them to make it easier to hire by streamlining burdensome licensing processes.
Luiza Mills and Diana Hasan, Director of Human Resource at C. E. Floyd and a member of the ABC Board, closed out the webinar with some perspectives and from the HR vantage point. Mills spoke about the disparity in how trade careers are described versus college careers. She said there are “unintentional stigmas” that are put on trade careers “ and that is are not helpful.” She said the trades are an important part of our economy and society and we should be cognizant of not stigmatizing them as being different in value from white collar jobs.
“We need to rethink how we look for talent,” said Hasan. Noting that as the industry continues to change at a fast pace, it is important to seek out new resources. “Use ABC, use the Gould Construction Institute, use the new tableau,” she said. She said contractors need to access different pools of candidates. “We want to represent the communities that we work in,” she said.
A recording of the webinar is here.
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