If you are an employee of a state or local government working in any capacity with the public works sector of construction, there’s a chance you’ve noticed a new trend that is quickly picking up steam. Yes, prevailing wage laws have been around for decades, but they are not the only thing public agencies are monitoring these days in the compliance spectrum. Project owners are leveraging the construction industry to implement policies that have a compounded benefit to their communities, and more importantly, their residents.
A Growing Workforce Trend
More and more often, public agencies are incorporating workforce hiring requirements into their construction contracts. For those who are unfamiliar, these stipulations typically require the contractors that are awarded contracts by the agency to employ a workforce that meets certain thresholds of demographic criteria. For example, one of the more common trends that local entities push for is an increased rate of local hires.
Typically, the contracting agency sets a benchmark on a project that the contractors must meet. In this example, contractors must maintain that a certain percentage of the workers on the project must reside within the city or county in which the project takes place (alternatively, the percentage of total hours worked on the project can be used as a measure). The primary motive of the agency here would be to ensure that the residents of the community are the ones benefiting most from public funds used on this project to maximize the return on taxpayer dollars. This discourages the outsourcing of skilled labor, a not-so-uncommon tactic that some contractors might try in order to cut recruiting and hiring costs. (Remember, the use of local labor is one of the reasons the Davis-Bacon Act was created in 1931.) The benefit that the public entity realizes from these hiring requirements is compounded. Not only are stable career opportunities created for local residents, but the workers’ disposable income may contribute to the local economies and provide additional tax revenue that would have otherwise been displaced along with the transplanted workers once the project was complete.
Another commonly tracked statistical measure that is vital to the longevity of the industry’s success is that of apprentices or on-the-job trainees (OJTs). These recruits are crucial because of the industry’s dependency on new labor entering the market. As many government professionals might already be aware, one of the most common obstacles contractors face daily is obtaining and retaining a sufficient quantity of skilled labor to complete their projects on time and on budget. It has been no secret that the industry has struggled to replenish voids left by retiring workers as socio-economic pressures have increasingly influenced youth to pursue college degrees and white-collar jobs over manual labor (even despite its enticing stability and benefits). This obstacle, among a plethora of others, has kept the industry in a constant battle searching for new skilled labor to keep up with the demand for construction projects.
A New Opportunity
This struggle, however, has positioned the industry in a unique situation. In fact, many feel that this challenge has presented a potential goldmine opportunity. It has left the door open to target new sources of untapped potential in traditionally under-utilized pockets of demographics, giving industry players a chance to fill the labor deficit while also providing career opportunities to individuals who need them the most.
Some localities have taken these hiring requirements to the next level to address these under-represented communities like minorities, the economically impoverished, or other disadvantaged groups. By working together with workforce training programs and supportive services that cater to these individuals, various entities across the country have successfully made a difference in lifting up the most deserving members in their communities with stable careers.
How Public Agencies Are Achieving Workforce Goals
There are two important capabilities that allow an entity to achieve success in their workforce initiatives. The first one is the ability to accurately track and measure progress on these goals, which, if you don’t have a proper system in place, is easier said than done. How are your initiatives going to hold any weight if you cannot prove that they are working? How are contractors going to prove to you that they are meeting these expectations? Nothing makes an objective falter faster than the inability to monitor results and measure the return. Luckily, the nature of public works construction and prevailing wage compliance is heavily tied to worker data. The infrastructure to track hiring requirements on contracts is set in place for agencies that have adopted the appropriate labor compliance solution.
The second capability that is crucial to accomplishing your goals is geared more towards workforce development in general. As previously mentioned, true success is established when agencies work together with workforce training programs. But it isn’t always just training programs that play a part in an individual’s placement. There are often multiple supportive services and other organizations that help a disadvantaged individual transition into their career and pave the path to their ultimate destination.
The unfortunate part is that there can all too often be a disconnect between a lot of the organizations that play a role here, and this can lead to one or more of them losing track of a worker’s career progress somewhere along the way. This makes it extremely difficult for every organization to measure the return on their investments. The good news is that there are new software technologies that specialize in collaboration to help bridge this gap between these parties. With participation on all accounts, organizations will be able to track a worker’s progress along every step of their journey, from pre-apprenticeship and supportive service programs to the journeymen level and beyond.
For more information on cloud-based software solutions that can provide these capabilities, check out: https://www.lcptracker.com.