Construction boom expands need for SF job training programs

A building boom and a low unemployment rate has San Francisco expanding construction job training programs to reach some of its most disadvantaged residents and ensure The City remains compliant with a mandate to hire local residents for public projects.

There’s even one proposal to bring construction job training to inmates in San Francisco’s jail.
With the boom, there was a more than 40 percent increase in work last year on public construction projects covered by the local hire mandate, which went into effect in March 2011.

The City was able to meet the local hire mandate, which requires that 30 percent of construction hours of work go to local residents and 50 percent of apprenticeship hours of work to local residents. For fiscal year 2017-18, public construction sites achieved a 35 percent local hire for construction hours and 51 percent for local hire apprenticeship hours, according to Ken Nim, a workforce compliance manager with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The seventh annual local hire report issued Thursday by OEWD said the “Local Hiring Policy still effectively creates opportunities for local construction workers.”

But the report said to remain compliant “the pace at which new apprentices are entering the workforce must be accelerated in order to meet the demands of the industry.”

It’s not just the development boom that creates a challenge to meet the mandate, but also San Francisco’s low unemployment rate at 2.4 percent.

The unemployment rate number can be misleading, however. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies people as unemployed “if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks, and are currently available for work.” It also counts those as employed “if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey reference week.”

That means the challenge for The City is to reach out to communities who face greater barriers to employment for construction training to create the pipeline of workers needed to ensure the local hire mandate can be met. The City’s construction job training occurs through CityBuild, which is under the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

“At CityBuild, we’re using the challenge of a labor shortage in the biggest construction boom San Francisco has ever seen as an opportunity to expand our trainings and reach even more disadvantaged job-seekers, making sure no one is left behind when it comes to benefitting from The City’s prosperity,” said Joshua Arce, CityBuild director, in a statement. Arce helped pass the local hire law in 2010 with then Supervisor John Avalos.

One idea, according to the report, is to bring a construction training program to the jail.

“We proposed a first of its kind program to bring CityBuild instructors into County Jail to provide training in partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and Five Keys Charter School,” Nim said in an email. “Our goal is to serve up to 80 currently incarcerated jobseekers to be eligible to get their union card and go to work upon release. This $150,000 program was not funded in the current budget, but we continue to work to identify potential funding sources.”

This year, The City expanded CityBuild training at the Mario de la Torre Academy at Gleneagles Golf Course, called “CityBuild-Gleneagles. “CityBuild-Gleneagles has the capacity to train up to an additional 120 jobseekers per year, alongside 100 to 140 apprentices who graduate annually from the CityBuild Academy and collaborations,” the report said. This program targets young adults and adults on probation, according to Nim.

In fiscal year 2017-18, there were 3.6 million total construction hours worked on projects covered by the local hire mandate, a 43 percent increase in hours from the previous fiscal year.
In a statement Mayor-Elect London Breed called the local hire policy “a pathway to higher wages, better opportunities for local residents, and reinvestment in our City.” She added, “As we continue to build housing in San Francisco, we must ensure that our residents are trained and prepared to be a part of the pipeline of talent.”

The mandate applies to the percentage of hours worked on a project, but the report also notes the actual number of workers on the projects. Between 2011 and 2018 there were 3,972 local residents employed on these construction sites out of a total of 26,684.

Of the total local workers, nearly 800 hailed from the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, 693 came from the Outer Mission and Excelsior neighborhoods and 487 from the Mission.
By race, 1,214 local workers were Latino, 727 were white, 664 were Asian and 579 were black.

“Connecting San Franciscans to local construction jobs with a middle-class wage and opportunities gives all our residents the chance to enjoy the prosperity of this city,” Mayor Mark Farrell said in a statement.

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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