County capital construction projects seeking workers, striving toward workforce equity goals

November 20, 2017

Dozens of people filled a conference room of Jefferson Station on SW 1st Avenue and Madison Street on Friday morning. The industrial space in the heart of the emerging Multnomah County Central Courthouse Project was the setting for a networking event meant to connect job-seekers with opportunities on the county’s capital construction projects.

It began with introductions from Multnomah County project managers, contractors, subcontractors, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship experts. Each described a substantial need for many kinds of workers and skill sets: pipefitters, truckers, caulkers, carpenters, masons, laborers, sheet rockers, sheet metal workers, project engineers and 3-D modeling experts, among other vital roles.  

Hiring event for county capital construction projects

“We’re looking for people who have experience and those who don’t have experience. We’re willing to train and teach,” one apprenticeship manager said.

“We need people who want to learn, be on time and have a good attitude,” said another.  “Pick what you’re passionate about, and this career will be good to you.”  

The event was hosted by Hoffman Construction, JE Dunn Construction and Construction Apprenticeship and Workforce Solutions (CAWS), in partnership with two major Multnomah County capital construction projects: the Multnomah County Central Courthouse Project and the Gladys McCoy Health Department Headquarters in Old Town/Chinatown.

Both projects have broken ground and set ambitious goals to provide opportunities for apprentices and for minority, women, service-disabled veterans and emerging small businesses.

Now, those goals must be achieved.  

“We’ve put some things in place so we can achieve those goals,” said Faye Burch of FM Burch and Associates, an equity and inclusion consultant. “We’re taking responsibility for developing these job opportunities and people.”

Opportunities exist for people as young as 18 years old, Burch stressed. Prospective candidates can have a high school diploma or a GED and can enter the field through pre-apprenticeship  programs like Constructing Hope, Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., Portland Youthbuilders Program or Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC).

Trainings range from six- to 12-week classes. After basic training classes, students work on actual construction projects to discover areas of interest. Some programs have direct entry to union and non-union work.  

“Apprenticeship is a pathway for many out of poverty, and an opportunity to be self-sustaining for minorities and women,” Burch said. “These are jobs that pay a competitive wage with opportunity for growth.”

Angela Lanier, a carpenter apprentice with Performance Contracting Inc, attended Friday’s event.

Angela Lanier is a carpenter apprentice with Performance Contracting Inc.

The mother of two is currently working on a hotel project in downtown Portland. In February, she will start on the courthouse project.

“I worked in restaurants, a bank, as a pharmacy technician,” said Lanier. “I went to college for two years; nothing compares to what I’m making now with the benefits.”

Lanier learned about the opportunity while in recovery at Volunteers of America. A friend through Oregon Tradeswomen Inc, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting women working in the trades, told her about a seven-week pre-apprenticeship program through the organization.  

The program offers an overview of all the trades so participants can get an idea of what they like, from electrical work to carpentry, drywall, metal framing and more.

Lanier was drawn to carpentry.

“I was doing material handling,” Lanier explains. “I liked working with my hands - building - and I liked seeing a finished product.”

Lanier joined Northwest Carpenters Local 146. She got her tools when she started her first job.

Today, she is serving her second term as an apprentice, making $22 an hour. Her goal is to make $40 an hour as a certified journeywoman.  

“I started six months ago. I knew nothing,” she said. “I had no experience at all, the first four months.”

Now Lanier supports a family of three. With an early start to her shift, she is able to pick up her children from school after work. Lanier sees herself as a journeywoman 10 years from now, helping to train other apprentices.

“It’s the most comfortable I’ve been. I try to push my daughter to do something like this.”

The Multnomah County Courthouse Project and Health Department Headquarter Project require thousands of hours of workers.

“It’s for these jobs and jobs in the future that we’re going to need additional workers,” said Burch.

For more information on: Constructing Hope call (503) 281-1234, Oregon TradesWomen INC. call 503.335.8200, Portland YouthBuilders call 503-286-9350

Networking at the a hiring event for Multnomah County's Capital projects

Presenters provide information for County capital projects hiring event