Every year for the past decade, Marlton, N.J.–based contractor Lipinski Landscape Irrigation has hired 75 to 150 temporary workers from Mexico and Eastern Europe through the Department of Homeland Security's H-2B program, which allows 66,000 foreign workers to enter the United States for up to 10 months if domestic employers can demonstrate a need. But Peter Haran, Lipinski's vice president, wonders how his company would cope if H-2B were to suddenly cease and there was nothing to replace it: “If there's no guest worker program, what am I supposed to do? Shut my doors?”
In light of the current immigration debate, other builders and contractors are equally concerned about finding workers, and some have been taking action. Jacksonville, Fla.–based All-State Electrical gets most of its electricians and foremen through a federally funded apprentice program All-State's owner, Carmel Morris, helped establish in the 1970s. The Northeast Florida Builders Association coordinates that program, which offers students 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of field training during each of their four years of participation. Woodard Homes in Porterville, Calif., working with its local HBA and nonprofit employment training agencies, recently received a $500,000 grant from California's Work-force Investment Board to hire and train underprivileged or transient 18- to 24-year-olds to build affordable homes. “Our goal is to hire 30 per year,” says owner Greg Woodard.
To expose Hispanic youth (presumed citizens) to career possibilities in the housing industry, Atlanta-based Beazer Homes joined forces with the NAHB's Home Builder Institute and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to launch “Team Builders,” through which Beazer will employ 25 Hispanic college juniors and seniors as summer management interns. Fred Fratto, Beazer's senior vice president, says, “There is a significant talent pool that's been largely untapped by builders.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.