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Incoming AGC-P.R. president to focus on expanding construction workforce

Engineer Carlos Rodríguez, who will be sworn-in as the new president of the Associated General Contractors of America’s Puerto Rico chapter (AGC-P.R.) on Feb. 3, will be starting his tenure with the presentation of the association’s 2023 work plan.

The main items on his agenda focus on ensuring that the local construction industry has everything it requires to carry out the reconstruction of the island’s infrastructure after the damage wrought by the 2017 hurricanes, along with the energy grid’s transformation, as well as the celebration of the local chapter’s 60th anniversary.

In an interview with News is My Business, Rodríguez explained that some of the main issues related to the construction industry and that AGC-P.R. will be addressing this year include increasing the number of construction sector workers by offering training programs for industry workers, inflation, the availability of construction materials and equipment, and looking into alternatives to improve the logistics on how materials arrive in Puerto Rico.

In addition, Rodríguez said that AGC-P.R. will be working on the continuing education certification program for contractors.

“As an association we have to ensure that the federal funds allocated to Puerto Rico for the reconstruction and modernization of its infrastructure, including the energy grid, are invested for Puerto Rico residents’ well-being, and as a voice of the industry we will advocate that local general contractors and construction subcontractors have a broad participation in these efforts,” Rodríguez said, while noting that the trade group will “continue to focus on implementing our work program with consistency and with constant efforts.”

To expand the talent bank of workers in a short period of time, AGC-P.R. is proposing, in conjunction with other construction related associations, for President Joe Biden to draft an executive order dubbed “Parole for Significant Public Benefit.”

AGC-P.R. and other local construction associations have already reached out to the White House to discuss their concerns about the worker shortage.

Their proposal states that “Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, needs to significantly expand its construction workforce (by 50K+) during the next ten years to execute the infrastructure reconstruction and modernization program financed with federal funds assigned to address” the reconstruction works needed to fix the damages caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and the 2020 earthquakes.

The “Parole for Significant Public Benefit” proposal further notes that the magnitude and importance of what is needed requires more than one solution. 

“Given the urgency of the need, any additional solution must be efficient in terms of timing, and access to skilled employees,” the proposal reads. 

Rodríguez noted that if Biden drafts the proposed order, it could help add some 20,000 skilled construction workers to help in the rebuilding efforts that are either underway or are slated to begin.

The incoming trade group president said that Puerto Rico has some 35,000 skilled construction workers, but needs some 80,000 workers for all the reconstruction projects that will take place across the island.

In addition, the proposed program would allow for immigrants living in Puerto Rico without a defined immigration status to participate in construction works funded by federal disaster funds.

Furthermore, AGC-P.R. is investing resources and time developing training programs for construction workers with entities from different sectors including schools, universities and nonprofit organizations and is encouraging the entry of women and youth into the construction industry.

“The issue of access to skilled workers is a priority that we are addressing through different efforts, because there is no magical solution,” Rodríguez said. “The [proposal] is a legally viable tool with the capacity to add some 20,000 workers in a short amount of time. Furthermore, by training new human resources and the inclusion of women and young people we are strengthening the sustainability of the industry.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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