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New Philly Mayor Sets Goal of 45% Minority Workforce Participation on City-funded Projects

Mayor Kenney

Mayor Kenney

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Last week during a WURD 900 radio interview with Solomon Jones, newly elected Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he hopes to set a goal of 45 percent minority workforce participation on city-funded construction projects.  Kenney stopped short of setting a timeline for the goal. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show the construction trades in Philadelphia are 99 percent male and 74 percent white, so achieving the 45 percent goal will take a major commitment by several parties. After the interview, Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for the Kenney administration, provided more details to the press:

“The building trades, our deputy mayor for labor, the chief diversity officer and the commerce director will work to complete an action plan to increase the minority participation rate within the first six months of the administration.  The mayor is also committed to expanding vocational training and apprenticeship programs as part of the community schools expansion.”

Lauding the mayor for his ambitious goal while noting its challenges was Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia Business Manager Ryan Boyer, who said his organization was on board with the effort:

“First, we need a baseline on where we are right now. I don’t want the mayor to get stuck with that number, but he is dedicated to making substantial improvement there.  Kenney has a robust plan, and has been meeting behind closed doors to create a fair system.”

Boyer said that the plan could include a two-pronged system of openly posting the dates of apprenticeship exams and then following up with those who fail. Improving participants’ scores, not just weeding people out, would result in a higher conversion rate.  Boyer says that a system that doesn’t score pass/fail, but instead uses grades as a benchmark, could also help the goal by qualifying certain workers for more technical or mechanical apprenticeships:

“It’s not a quick fix, and people may not like that.  But this is a commitment made not only at the level of union leadership, but with the apprenticeship coordinators as well. The ultimate goal is to have one common test, similar to the Army Career and Alumni Program test in the military. Based on where you are, different unions open up to you.  But the mayor is committed, and the building trades are committed.”

During his interview Kenny admitted that people will remain skeptical until his administration produces results:

“Look, people should be skeptical and people should say, ‘We’ve heard this before.”  The only thing we can do is produce, and I think that I am in a position now because of the support I received and the coalitions I received with the building trades.”


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