It is no secret that diversity and inclusion efforts are a necessary part of securing a just workplace for all involved. As the third-least-diverse industry in Minnesota, according to a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the construction industry is well overdue in this regard.
In the wake of this reality, Minneapolis-based construction company Mortenson, along with other industry leaders, have made it their mission to ignite a massive push state-wide to increase diversity and inclusion in construction.
Industry Giants Launch New Event
One of the highlights from this year’s endeavors is the launch of the first-ever Construction Inclusion Week, a nationwide event led by Mortenson and five other industry leaders grouped together under the association Time for Change.
The recently conducted event sought to generate sustainable and generational change that would advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in construction.
This is being accomplished by hosting job sites and online events, educational meetings, Ted Talks and webinars, online training modules, goal-setting sessions, and social media campaigns, according to a recent article published by the Star Tribune. Daily themes of the event include leadership commitment and accountability, unconscious bias, supplier diversity, Jobsite culture, and community outreach.
Mortenson intends for the effects of the event to be long-lasting. According to its website, the company hopes this new annual event will, “effect positive change in the industry for generations of workers to come.”
Through their promotional efforts, the event reached more than 7.4 million construction workers nationwide, bringing incredible salience to the important issue.
Combining Forces for Change
Mortenson is a sponsor for the Twin Cities-based nonprofit, the Construction Careers Foundation. The nonprofit creates pathways for young people to connect to the Minnesota union construction industry, with a particular emphasis on developing opportunities for women and people of color.
“The Construction Careers Foundation’s mission is to increase the diversity of entrants to the construction trades and foster long-term construction careers,” said Mary Stuart, associate director of the Construction Careers Foundation.
Mortenson’s work to secure a fair working environment for women and people of color in construction is an essential component to the Construction Careers Foundation’s efforts to encourage diverse youth to find their place in the industry, and bolster the workforce training pipeline.
While the two organizations are proud of the work they have accomplished, both realize there is much more to do.
“We recognize the historic lack of diversity in Minnesota’s construction industry,” said Stuart. “We’re working to fix these shortfalls by supporting registered apprenticeship programs and recruiting from diverse communities, starting at the middle and high school levels.”
It All Starts in Schools
One of the many ways the Construction Careers Foundation provides support for the workforce training pipeline is through the Minnesota Trades Academy, a paid summer construction internship program for high school students. The goal of the program is to provide rich, educational, hands-on experiences for participants that help youth learn about construction as a career choice.
The Minnesota Trades Academy enlightens a crucial third opportunity for students to find success and fulfillment after high school. This is a particularly relevant endeavor given that university tuition fees have accelerated three times the rate of inflation in Minnesota over the past 10 years, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
“By developing construction education courses and internship opportunities for Minnesota’s most diverse communities, we address the statewide construction labor shortage and provide union apprenticeship programs with diverse local talent,” said Stuart.
Construction Careers Foundation Supports Educators
Teachers looking for support in educating their students about careers in the construction industry should visit the Construction Careers Foundation’s Educators web page for access to more resources.
The Construction Careers Foundation offers many programs that open pathways for increased diversity in the Minnesota construction industry. Check them out here, or see them in action on our Youtube Channel.