Immigrants have always been a part of the fabric of construction. When we started to gather around city centers and built infrastructure such as roads, buildings, subways, and the like, construction contractors starting looking for people to work in a dirty and dangerous environment. Second generation Americans looked to work in other places. However, immigrants were interested as construction pay was better and the hours more civil than the farm industry where picking, plowing, and bending over during the daylight hours was the norm.
This scenario has continued to today. I don’t think it will change much as long as we have legal immigration in this country. (I am hopeful the illegal kind will soon cease).
A couple of contractors I know are still wrestling with the idea of using first generation immigrants in their construction business. They are hopeful to find a way to attract and retain native workers. This is a worthy but, difficult goal. They continue to experience frustration.
The current number of illegal immigrants will not change downward in this country. Our political system will not allow for deportation. The American people are forgiving. I can see a day where our borders are secure and we start talking about a path to citizenship. We certainly won’t do that when we cannot secure the borders. We are not that forgiving as a people. However, we won’t lose our workers to immigration reform. It is not in the political cards.
For the contractor, if you are seeking more “ready to work” people in you field staffs, immigrants are the only place to start. Most come from farms and know what hard work is. They also, are not afraid of long hours. Don’t be shy about recruiting this group. You have a couple hundred years of American Construction History behind you. Said another way, it is quite normal to have those who have not realized the American Dream (yet) to work in construction.
Purchase a copy of my McGraw-Hill book, Managing a Construction Firm on Just 24 Hours a Day. We offer a bundle with Excel templates that are featured in the book and 5 on-line courses to help teach construction business concepts. Go to www.stevensci.com and click on the book link
Our workbook companion with 10 case studies is titled, The Business Management Workbook for Construction with Case Studies is now available.This text is focused as an assist for Colleges, Associations and Contractor Training Programs that teach the business of construction.
My next book, The New Business Model of Construction Contracting is planned for December 2007. Its focus concerns the changing construction environment and what processes address those changes.
Matt Stevens is President of Stevens Construction Institute, Inc. A management consulting firm which works only with construction contractors. Learn more at www.stevensci.com. Take a free course at www.constructioncbt.com and sign in as a new student.