Highway contractors, Latin American Association team up for job fair Feb. 3

Photo from a previous job fair -- courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor

With metro Atlanta unemployment at 4.2 percent and construction set to ramp up for the spring, Georgia contractors are gearing up for a job fair on Saturday to recruit construction workers.

The Georgia Highway Contractors Association (GHCA) is partnering with the Latin American Association (LAA) to host the event, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 3 from 9 a.m. – noon at the Latin American Association, 2750 Buford Highway, NE, in Atlanta.

Eleven metro Atlanta highway contractors are participating in the job fair, including Cobb County firms C.W. Matthews, Blount Construction and Baldwin Paving. Participating firms emphasize not just the ability for participants to land one of hundreds of jobs, but to begin what could be a successful career in construction.

David Moellering — photo courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor

“We employ workers from all different communities, but the Latin American community has always been a cornerstone of the construction industry,” said GCHA Executive Director David Moellering.

Contractors will be hiring both men and women for a range of construction job types and experience levels, and tout “full-time employment, excellent pay and benefits, and the opportunity to advance,” in a press release.

Sandra Achury –photo courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor

LAA’s purpose, both at the fair and more broadly, is to connect job seekers with hiring companies, according to managing director of economic empowerment Sandra Achury.

“We have a database with about 10,000 job seekers,” she said. “We invite them to come to job fairs and contact other agencies who work with Latinos. We email them, go to shopping centers in Latino areas, to libraries and restaurants in order to connect employers with workers.”

Achury said there are many different reasons construction is a popular job for Hispanics. For one, there is often a language barrier for first-generation immigrants, which isn’t as much of a factor for construction jobs. Another is that they generally love the work, being outdoors, working with their hands and interacting with others.

The people who do construction work tend to stay there,” said Achury. “There are opportunities for them to grow.”

Moellering said that contractors utilize E-Verify to confirm all hired workers are eligible to work in the U.S. Of course, they may still be immigrants who have become citizens, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants. Moellering added that his great-grandparents were immigrants from Germany. [An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that E-Verify verifies citizenship, rather than work eligibility — thanks to reader D.A. King for pointing out this error to us.]

Organizers expect about 150 job seekers to show up Saturday, ready to interview with potential employers and, for some, walk away with a job.

Frederick Gino Willis — — photo courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor

The construction season tends to pick up along with the weather in early spring. Highway construction is significantly up in Georgia thanks to nearly $1 billion per year infrastructure bill passed by the state legislature in 2015.

There are a lot of major projects going on,” said Moellering. “The managed lanes project is finishing up, and the I-285/Georgia S.R. 400 intersection project is getting underway. Plus there is a lot of road resurfacing and bridge rehabilitation going on. Everywhere in Cobb County, when you see barrels, I’d say those barrels are jobs. Barrels mean somebody is working.”

This is the second time GHCA, a statewide nonprofit association of approximately 200 member companies, and LAA have teamed up for a job fair. The Hispanic community constitutes an estimated 25 percent of the highway construction workforce in Georgia. The job fair is part of GHCA’s Fast Lane to Jobs campaign, which includes a website, www.GeorgiaRoadJobs.com, presented in both English and Spanish.

Photo from a previous job fair — courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor

Roughly two-thirds of Georgia high school students do not go on to complete a four-year college degree. For those who do not finish college, Moellering said his industry provides a great way to establish a career. An entry-level worker who proves to be a good laborer can move on to operating heavy machinery, and if they show leadership skills can become a foreman or superintendent, potentially moving high from there.”

“Some folks in our industry begin at the very bottom and rise to the top,” he said. “A lot of companies will be ready to hire on the spot Saturday.”

Photo from a previous job fair — photo courtesy of Katherine Bows Taylor