03 Nov AiroAV Announced Construction diversity and inclusion is a strategy at the i…
Sector partnerships in manufacturing, health care and information technology, each projected to be “in-demand” areas of the Northeast Ohio economy, are receiving well- deserved attention and support from industry leaders, philanthropic funders and workforce partners.
We believe the construction sector, which began a similar effort in 2013, deserves the same level of financial support, as evidenced in an Oct. 21 Crain’s article, “Demand for workers is a growing construction contractor concern.”
Nearly a decade ago, four African-American contractors — in consultation with former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes — engaged public, private, labor and community leaders in a conversation which, in 2013, established the Construction Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) Committee of the Commission of Economic Inclusion, a program of the Greater Cleveland Partnership — as a sector partnership — to advance equitable minority participation in construction.
As we move toward our seventh year of operation, the goal of changing the culture and inclusion around major construction projects has seen progress. Trade unions, major contractors and their associations, school systems and community organizations can point to several programs and initiatives where inclusion of women and minorities are at the forefront. The CDI committee is poised to help these efforts move to the next level of impact.
The Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Community Benefits and Inclusion (MOU) was signed in February 2013 by a group of business, labor, political, educational and civic leaders establishing the operational framework for Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) in construction. Subsequently, major employers voluntarily endorsed the agreement and used it to guide more than $600 million in minority contracting. Further, the MOU/CBA was inspired and augmented by the existence of a local hiring law — also known as the “Fannie Lewis law” — under which, according to the city of Cleveland, more than $232 million was earned by local residents working on construction projects.
Despite these collaborative efforts, an Ohio Supreme Court decision in September struck down the local hiring law that has produced so much success. Nevertheless, in response to the court decision, many of those same public, private and labor interests that established the MOU/CBA pledged to continue their voluntary efforts to ensure equitable minority participation in construction. In the same Crain’s article cited earlier, a survey of industry leaders underscored a growing concern that construction demand will be constrained by the lack of supply of trained professionals and tradespeople.
As construction demand has evolved, so has CDI and its collaborators. In 2018, volunteer leaders and staff completed a comprehensive assessment of CDI and determined a need to expand CDI’s work to include promoting job and business opportunities for minorities across the construction sector. Subsequently, the Work & Jobs Strategy Group (formerly the Owners Outreach Group), led by construction leaders from MetroHealth and the Cleveland Clinic, has been convening a growing number of new collaborators including financing and development entities, construction managers, professional services representatives and commercial real estate interests. Relative to construction supply, CDI is actively working with education and workforce partners to expand outreach to high school and college students, individuals looking for new career opportunities and seasoned professionals looking for their next client. The leadership of CDI celebrates all of the voices and efforts supporting and advancing diversity and inclusion in construction.
We believe that CDI, like other sector partnership convenings, is strongly positioned to play an even more important role in closing the demand and supply gap in construction. We are grateful to our founding MOU group and steadfast supporters. In order to broaden our impact and sustainability, we invite new partners and, most importantly, additional funding partners to implement this key strategy that lives at the intersection of race, gender and economics.
Haqq, director of administration and external affairs for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, are co-chairs of the Construction Diversity and Inclusion Committee.