How can the construction industry better support Latino workers?
December 21, 2021
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show in 2020, Latino workers made up 30% of the construction industry’s workforce. Yet many Latino construction workers feel disconnected from their non-Latino co-workers because of factors such as a lack of diversity in construction and a potential language barrier for workers whose first language is not English, according to www.constructionexec.com.
There are ways to approach these roadblocks and help create a stronger sense of belonging for Latinos in the construction industry.
Address the language barrier. For many Latinos in the U.S., English is their second language, and there may be discomfort about conversing with superiors or colleagues, as well as frustration regarding not being understood. The construction industry can work to increase Spanish language skills across all levels of the workforce, including written materials promoting safety and other important job-site protocols. It shows Latino workers the industry is dedicated to improving their working conditions and allows non-Spanish speakers to experience firsthand the discomfort of trying to communicate in a second language.
Educate the public to create a more diverse workforce. Groups that are minimally represented in construction, such as women and those who identify as people of color, may be unaware of the career opportunities available in the industry. It is important to begin outreach early when young people are still in school. Engaging with underprivileged youth is an example of establishing early outreach and developing a path for individuals to grow into construction careers. These new workers will bring new voices and help educate their peers, driving a more diverse workforce.
Hire within the community. Nearly 16% of Latinos in the U.S. live in poverty. Industry outreach must involve intentionally reaching out to and hiring within the communities firms are building in—this sometimes is in underprivileged neighborhoods where residents do not always have local jobs that provide steady income and room for growth. Construction can provide Latinos with career advancement opportunities, and the industry can create an ongoing system of mentorship to help Latinos reach more senior positions.