A language barrier exists on many jobsites, one that can leave managers and workers unsure and distrusting of the abilities of their on-site peers. In an industry that relies so heavily on subcontractors, the abilities of those subs become a major concern.

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which has developed job-specific training and assessment exams for a variety of construction skills and at a number of levels of proficiency within each skill, is stepping into the breach to assist Hispanic workers. The Gainesville, Fla.–based NCCER is translating some of its assessment exams as well as some entry-level training materials into Spanish.

“The assessments measure technical expertise,” says Tania Domenech, NCCER project manager in charge of the translations. “A concrete finisher may be an excellent concrete finisher, but because the language is a barrier, they may have limitations as to how far they can advance in the industry.”

Like their English-speaking counterparts, Spanish-speakers who complete NCCER exams will receive credentials from the NCCER National Registry.

The first wave of translated materials gives Spanish-speaking workers access to assessments for concrete finishing, industrial carpentry, industrial insulation, industrial pipe fitting, reinforcing iron and rebar, scaffold building, level one masonry, and rigging fundamentals.

The goal of the program is to test technical skills, not language, Domenech says. But there is a language component to the training materials.

Every translated training book contains a glossary of trade terms, translated from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English. Part of the goal of the training program, while not to teach English, is to provide a transition into the language, Domenech says.

“Along with the translation of the text itself, we also tell them what things mean,” she says. “It’s a safety hazard to have a lack of communication on the site.”

Which assessment exams and training materials are translated is determined by demand from the NCCER’s sponsors. The NCCER was formed in 1996 as a nonprofit organization to do skill assessments by several of the construction industry’s leading manufacturers and contractors.

“The sponsors keep asking for more titles to be translated, but we have limitations on the workload we can handle,” Domenech says.

The tests can be taken over the Internet or with paper and pencil.