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D&I Have Positive Implications for Workforce Development

image Doug McMurry, Executive Vice President, Associated General Contractors, San Antonio Chapter

EXTENDING THE REACH - “It’s hard to separate diversity from workforce development. The two really go hand in hand.”







    During the national AGC convention in New Orleans this year, the San Antonio Chapter received the first ever award to an AGC chapter for diversity and inclusion. The recognition was especially nice because it happened during the association’s centennial celebration and Renee Watson, director of the Bexar County’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Department, was there to help accept the award.
    Like the national community service award the chapter received in 2017, the recognition for diversity and inclusion was the result of dedication and teamwork. The award application leaned heavily on our work with the Black Contractors Association and our long-time partnership with Bexar County on The Basics and the Mentor/Protégé Program. 
    The BCA was initiated almost three years ago by Turner Construction and the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce. Under the leadership of Henry Boone, it grew to be a viable and productive organization. Today, the BCA is administered by AGC’s Director of Education Dana Marsh and it produces dozens of valuable educational programs and meaningful networking opportunities.
    Like many AGC member companies, we have a diversity policy. Ours states, “In accordance with our bylaws, the chapter encourages sound business methods tending to raise the standards of construction professionals. To further advance the standards of skill, integrity, and responsibility we embrace the essential values of diversity and inclusion. In doing so, we impart these values in association practices and cultivate a culture of diversity and inclusion within the broader membership.”
    Our commitment to diversity and inclusion began 13 years ago with a visit to Portland, Oregon to learn more about the Stempel Plan. The plan is a model mentor/protégé program designed to build effective working relationships between leaders of well-established companies and new and emerging contractors. 
    That plan became the foundation for a very successful local mentor/protégé program. Dozens of chapter leaders have built up the program by serving as devoted mentors.  And with the strong support of Watson and Bexar County, the program focuses effectively on small, minority, and women-owned construction businesses. Today, the San Antonio Chapter is the most active of the AGC chapters when it comes to supporting such a program.
    The prerequisite for the Mentor/Protégé program is “The Basics,” a ten-week, 20-hour educational course held at the chapter office since 2005.  The classes focus on such topics as estimating, financial management, and understanding contracts.
    The instructors are always dedicated AGC volunteers. And characteristically, Bexar County reimburses the students for the full tuition if they meet certain requirements.
    Recognition for accomplishments is nice, but the best part of diversity and inclusion may be the positive implications for workforce development. For decades the most vexing problem the construction industry has faced is the shortage of skilled workers. The problem also applies to filling the salaried positions of estimator, superintendent, and project manager.
    By embracing minority and women-owned businesses, the industry is extending its reach into the labor market. It’s saying, “You are welcome here.” Diversity and inclusion broaden the appeal to future plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. And these values also show a path forward to young entrepreneurs who may want to start their own construction company.

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