Best Practices — Working in Construction Industry (NYC Edition)

This Q&A (answered by a workforce development professional who worked with 80-100 companies in the Construction industry — in varying trades such as, general laborer, carpenters, etc.) is specifically for those who are looking for work in the Construction Industry and how workforce development professionals can help. This applies to employment coordinators, job placement specialists, job developers, account managers, job counselors etc. as they are gatekeepers and advocates for job seekers, in which this will help give an idea of how to counsel job seekers into getting into the field.

Image via Raconteur
  • What is promising in this career, past and future?
    • There are always things being built, so the sector will always be here, especially in NYC.
    • The trades — the ability to specialize in a skill or art form, something you can work towards, becoming an expert in a skillset.
    • Unions — everyone wants to be part of the Union and is a big draw for construction workers, however not everyone is aware of the politics and how to apply.
  • What is the path to getting into a Union?
    • Path 1: Pre-apprenticeship → Apprenticeship → Work in field → Union (Takes time and commitment, depending on the trade — the time/difficulty varies)
    • Path 2: Open-shop is experience based, advocating for yourself and learning on the job and pursuing opportunities in the field, pursuing training on your own time
  • How does recruiting work for candidates with no experience for construction jobs?
    • You need thick skin for this field. Being precise and direct with your pitch to forepersons and site supervisors. Employers have a lot of options (finding walk-ons) but if you can provide them with a skilled worker, you set a good precedent for promising candidates. Send out your most qualified and skilled candidates first to build trust (i.e.. sending strong electrician candidates)
    • For entry level positions, they look for attitude, work ethic, and dedication. A pain point for employers are employees not showing up on time and not being sober.
  • How do I screen candidates for construction jobs?
    • If it is a skilled person, you need to make sure their skills and experience are legit. You need to test them with job specific questions to the trade (terms, processes, scenario questions), and ask them for how much they are looking for (a skilled worker will know their worth)
    • For entry level, ask if they can complete the basics — can you show up on time, can you commit, can you tolerate the realities of the job (weather, physical tasks), and their interest in construction. Be honest with them about the realities of the work.
  • How do you respond to employer feedback on members working at their sites?
    • Don’t feel like you have to apologize for a specific person. This is not a rare situation for there to be employee feedback. Let the employer know that you will follow up with the member and the option that you are also looking for a replacement. The more timely the turn around, the better since construction companies are focused on project timelines as it affects their finances.
    • You will never be able to avoid challenges. You just need to be able to move with a sense of urgency.
  • Recommendations to address members when waiting to hear back from construction jobs:
    • If it’s an active job and the candidate is waiting for very long, move on to other options. The employer is most likely uninterested.
    • Avoid waiting jobs since they aren’t always guaranteed (change in timeline, pending permit and contract approval, etc.). Have them contact you closer to the start date.
    • Best bet is to keep looking until you have an immediate start date. Take “I’ll call you back” as a no. The norm is a same-day job offer.
  • How do I know I am working with a legit employer? How do I vet a company?
    • There are a lot of shady companies. Speak to your candidates after their interviews to assess the company. Look out for red flags (i.e. interview location, feedback from employers, etc). Scout out the location yourself.
    • Transparency with the candidates builds trust. They will keep coming back and you can rely on them to assess employers.
  • What are the pros and cons for open-shop for entry-level candidates?
    • Unions pay more is a pro. Being an employee of the union is a con due to the wait time after your contract ends (working 4-5 months of the year, starting at the bottom of the list) since you are sharing opportunities. You cannot work outside of the union for side jobs because you will be expelled. You need to work positions or jobs outside of your union position.
  • What are some off-the-book tips?
    • You need to understand that the industry is very tribal. A lot of electricians tend to be Hispanic. Concrete laborers tend to be Polish, Russian or Jamaican due to trades in their place of origin. Employers have these notions and hire based on them. Employees must have thick skin, trying to stick it out. Plumbers and electricians require attention to detail.
  • How can we continue to empower our members in the construction sector?
    • Educating our members on workers’ rights and how to navigate the filing process.
    • Changing the notion that you need “thick skin” in this industry because it perpetuates discrimination and unprofessional work practices acceptable.
    • Make change by working with a small construction owner and be their HR and their support system to create a different environment.
Image via Redshift by Autodesk

CNYCA’S COVID-19 Economic Update: Job market behavior in a pandemic—no easy answers

Disclaimer: Content in this article was obtained from NYC Employment + Training Coalition’s (NYCETC) NYC Workforce Weekly and the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) to serve as a resource for job seekers and those who are curious/interested in learning more about the current economy of the workforce.

Source:
Original article HERE / Past installments on CNYCA’S COVID-19 Economic Update HERE


We’ve all seen the “Help Wanted” signs in the windows of our neighborhood businesses. It’s a reassuring sign that business is coming back, and that our sequestered days might be waning. On the other hand, how can it be that jobs are going unfilled when we know that three-quarters of a million New Yorkers are jobless or have exited the labor market over the past year?

Many businesses are right to ask whether the extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits available through September 6 is keeping workers home. But as journalist Greg David noted in a recent article in The City on this issue, “it’s complicated.” David cited a recent Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce survey in which 42 percent of businesses felt that federal unemployment benefits were discouraging return to work. Yet, the Brooklyn survey, according to a report in the Post, also found that 41 percent of businesses said they couldn’t provide enough hours to employees, 28 percent said employees had moved on to other jobs, workers had safety concerns in 12 percent of the cases, and employee health issues were cited by five percent of businesses. And several businesses also noted that lack of child care was keeping some workers home.

Clearly, a multiplicity of factors is influencing job market behavior as pandemic business restrictions are eased, Covid case rates decline, and vaccinations become more widespread. It is not so clear cut that unemployment benefits are the primary cause for some jobs going unfilled, although the availability of benefits likely does make it possible for many of the unemployed to exercise greater latitude in making decisions in the best interests of their families, personal health, and career choices. But isn’t that appropriate considering that the unemployed lost their jobs due to a public health emergency not of their making, and that the pandemic has upended livelihoods and family circumstances for millions?

Beyond survey perceptions there are various economic indicators that reinforce the notion that there are no simple or easy answers on this question. Even though an earlier $600 weekly federal unemployment supplement ended at the beginning of August last summer, there was no local job surge in ensuing months. Rather, the second wave of Covid infections beginning in October kept the city’s overall job level flat for several months. Jobs didn’t start to rebound strongly until February and March (NYC added 90,000 jobs over those two months), even though the new $300 weekly federal supplement began in early January.

Employment in restaurants—where unfilled job openings are most common—rebounded some in the fall, fell off again during the winter, and started hiring again in February. This erratic pattern may have signaled an instability that deterred workers from returning. (April payroll data for New York City will be released on May 20.)

The fact that employment in child care centers has not risen appreciably since November also supports the notion that the lack of child care capacity has been preventing some parents from returning to work. The March 2021 employment level was still 21 percent below the pre-pandemic level, and there was a severe crisis in child care accessibility and affordability before the pandemic. The very slow pace with which the State has been moving to disburse emergency federal child care funding has further exacerbated the child care situation.

Since most neighborhood businesses are not back to full capacity, many are not able to offer their employees full-time schedules. Unlike other states, New York State’s partial unemployment system is particularly antiquated and confusing for workers to navigate. There are “cliff effects” as the figure below indicates, where an additional hour of part-time work can dramatically reduce partial unemployment benefits, unduly complicating a worker’s decision about returning to work part-time. State legislators and the governor have had proposals to remedy the problem since January but have not yet reached agreement on a resolution. Meanwhile, an estimated 25 percent of the two million-plus UI recipients in New York State are receiving partial benefits.

Several news reports indicate that some restaurant businesses have raised pay offers or enhanced benefits to attract workers back. That is what labor economists would expect to happen when recruitment problems persist. The need for higher pay is particularly warranted given that New York State pay regulations permit a “subminimum wage” for tipped restaurant workers of $10 an hour whereas the wage floor for most New York City workers has been $15 since the beginning of 2019. Since most restaurants are far below pre-pandemic business levels, tips are likely a fraction of what they previously were.

Picking an Imperfect Job versus a Perfect Job

While the job market is changing overtime, and will continue to change due to the pandemic, people will most likely have to pick up jobs that will lead to disappointment — as a result of the job shortages.

So the question is if you were offered a job that wouldn’t necessary fit what you are looking for, should you take it?

If you are starting your career as a recent college grad or transitioning to a new field but aren’t quite sure on a path, here are some advice that will hopefully point you to a direction:

  • For what is worth, look for what satisfies you. The better you like it, the better you will perform in the field/role. If it feels good, you excel at it and you should do it. You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes you didn’t like, that didn’t fit or were not fit for purpose.. would you?
    • The perfect job is not about what it is, but rather how it makes you feel and drives you to make things better. That is called your passion. Your passion is something that you enjoy doing everyday, where it doesn’t feel like a job; never phased you or felt like a chore. Instead, you let it motivate and drive you.
  • Check out some online psychometric tests or career personality tests (like a Myers Briggs Personality Test) to work out suitability, style, character, leadership, ideal career, etc.
  • If you like your role, you should also pay attention to the work environment around you. Stay away from negatively charged people, atmospheres where they can be unproductive, infectious and lead down the path to nowhere.
  • In any job/internship/volunteer that you have had, what part of each of them did you enjoy the most? Write that down as a job description somewhere.
    • Imagine a person like yourself doing that job and try to morph one to five of them that may exist into a job that exists and even more or less, take your best qualities and apply for jobs that you know you can excel at. Learn more of their internal work flow. Apply that to your thinking cap. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of any new job. If you find a job that you think will challenge you and the pros outweigh the cons, consider the new job instead. However, you will need to be passionate about what you do, so then it will feel like you’re getting the work done.
  • The most important step is to simply apply. This is often overlooked because job seekers get discouraged when they do not hear back after submitting 100+ applications and that networking is the only avenue to take. However, often these days, people do not apply and are collecting pandemic unemployment assistance — which means they are not even entered into the race to land a new opportunity.
    • Most times, you do not know if a role is actually perfect for you until you have gone through the interview process and have been able to gather more in-depth information about the responsibilities, team, culture and company. But the key is to at least apply. That is step one.
    • A lot of job seekers have not been applying because they are afraid of rejection. Do not be afraid to apply for a job because there is nothing to lose while going through the process. Up until there is an offer on the table, there is no reaction required — it’s all information-gathering until a final decision needs to be made.
    • If you apply for as much opportunities as possible (of course, opportunities that pique your interest), and if you land an interview, that is a bonus. You will still gain valuable skills from going through another interview process. You will learn what to expect and what skills employers are looking for. This is still a win-win.
  • We only really get to know how warm the water is by putting our foot in it. Apart from when it seems so obvious that the job is not right, accepting an “imperfect” job is not always as bad as we always think. How many of us can put our hands on our hearts and say without any doubt for the jobs we really enjoyed, we knew that they would be like that before we accepted them?
    • Any acceptance should be capable of challenging your abilities. That’s needed for the drive we all have.
  • Expectation is the root of disappointment so keeping a realistic perspective is the key to finding the balance in a new job. Maybe not “perfect” but more like “ideal”.
    Now if the actual position, company culture or benefits are wildly misrepresented by a potential employer, then that is a different story.
    Transparency is paramount on both sides to achieve the best outcomes because it is absolutely possible to have a job you love at a company worth your time and your efforts.
    • Live by the “Don’t expect, but settle for just good enough” mindset.
    • This isn’t often spoken about but I am sure a number of us can relate to below:
      • Finding a balance is more important than setting unrealistic expectations of what you expect and want from a job.
      • Sometimes when you say you found the best/ideal job you ever wanted, but things are not the way you expected internally (i.e. employee conflict), you will still end up leaving your so-called “best job”.
      • There is no best job, best boss, best colleagues. But you can always work on the best version of yourself. Do not aim for the job to be the best. Rather, aim for yourself to be the best. This is a more realistic approach, perhaps.
  • As mentioned previously, there is no such thing as the perfect job. Only a multitude of jobs that offer opportunity and possibility.
    • That doesn’t mean one should accept any job. Definitely, one should spend time in self reflection and introspection to try to determine what a good fit may look like: a job that plays to your strengths, skills, character and passion.
    • Once that is determined, make every effort to go about the business of seeking opportunities that provide a good fit.
    • Once you are in that job/position, do your best work and be the best you possibly can be. Create success for yourself.
    • Success brings passion, not passion brings success.
  • Rarely is anything truly “perfect”. It is important to know your “must haves” and what is negotiable, all while keeping in mind your present circumstances.
    After that, you should also consider whether this position could act as a stepping stone to an ultimate goal.
    Ask yourself if what you will learn on this job and the job’s responsibilities will be positive additions to your resume and skill set.
    Finally, you need to trust your feelings when it comes to the “vibe” you get from the company and the people you have met.
    If you have been honest with yourself during this assessment and you decide to take the job, you may find that it ends up to be much more “perfect” than you originally thought.
    • That being said, the keyword is trust your gut. Sometimes, we all jump into something for the fear of not having something “more stable” especially for those working on a contractual basis.
      However, the beauty of contracting is, you are not sucked into the underlying dysfunctional dynamics that may or may not be going on within the company with the Full-Time employees.
      That in and of itself is a liberating feeling. You get a chance to see what the company would be like to work for if you were a permanent employee and the company gets to see if you are a good fit for them in the long-term as well.
      Sometimes, it’s not the perfect job, but there is beauty to it.

Here is an advice from a Certified Career Management Coach:

My advice would be don’t allow perfection to get in the way of progress. Yes, it’s important to think carefully before making a decision, but sometimes over analysis can lead to paralysis.
There is some degree of trepidation when someone accepts a job offer because they don’t know what they are getting into. That’s the reason it’s important to ‘Know your non-negotiables’ as Lindsey Pollak suggests.
Have a baseline of what tradeoffs might be, then use a T-Chart to help you weigh the pros and cons. Make your decision according to where the balance is heavily tilting.

The candidate may also want to consider the following:


> Is this ‘not-so-perfect-job’ coming after an extensive, unproductive job search, dwindling funds and increasing debt?
> Will the job provide an opportunity for growth? Sometimes taking a side-way step can lead to climbing the career ladder.
> Are there new skills I could learn in this role that could benefit me in the long term?
> What’s the worst that could happen if I accept (or don’t accept) it?

Hope those pointers will help those who are sitting on the fence of indecision.


While no job is perfect, we should enjoy the ride and build up our experience to get a next better job which we aim to achieve. Rome isn’t built in just one day. The employee and employer would have to be compatible to make a good team and relationship to build up the business.

While you take your chance and shoot your best shot at whatever life throws at you, you may find the job enjoyable and can find ways to expand to your dream job. Take a job and improve it!