Thursday, March 19, 2009

Diversity in Philadelphia's Construction Industry...UPDATED

Those of you who really know me know that this is a touchy subject for me. I've had firsthand experience with the lack of diversity and opportunities for women and minorities in Philadelphia's construction industry. So I was pleased when the mayor appointed members and established the Commission on Construction Industry Diversity. This historical commission has been a long time coming, especially since the failure and consequent demise of MBEC.

The commission recently released one of the most comprehensive and concise reports I've ever seen. It goes over the history of racial tension in the construction industry in Philadelphia up to the present day problems.

I shared the history portion of the report with some of the male students at Randolph and although they know alot about their school's namesake, they were proud to learn the role he played persuading President Roosevelt to sign an Executive Order, thus creatin the Fair Employment Practices Committee! They were so excited and proud. I didn't expect that response from them. Much to my surprise, they wanted to see the entire report.

Today, a group came to let me know that although their school's namesake was mentioned, their school WAS NOT among those listed in the Pre-apprentice and Building Trade schools in the Philadelphia Region! "Mercy and Swenson are listed, but Randolph and Dobbins are not!" I hadn't noticed the omission; I'd read through the report but got bored with the findings and conclusions, most of which I already was all too familiar with. For me, this nothing new and it began to frustrate me. I hadn't read far enough to get to that list, so I wasn't prepared to answer the students. I don't know if the omission of Randolph and Dobbins was just an oversight on the part of the Commission, but I seriously doubt that - not with all the professional power broker organizations and individuals involved. (Note: No one from the School District of Philadelphia was involved with the Commission) No, I don't think it was an oversight, but an intentional omission. Reasons for the omissions should be investigated.

When I started in December as the "Student Advisor", I was all excited about working at a technical trade school - even though Randolph WAS NOT my first pick. Since I only scored 14 out of 79, my first two picks were taken, so I selected Randolph, looking forward to being in the Cosmetology arena again - that would have been right up my alley. I was disappointed to find out that there is no cosmetology curriculum here anymore. Early on I learned that the seniors did not have internships, and although the school staffs two career and employment people and a counselor, they were told to find their own internships. So I asked one of my contractor friends if he would consider providing internships to some of the students at Randolph. His response was: I tried to hire those students a few years ago, but they are not equipped with the proper knowledge and skills".

Anyway, to make a long story short, I followed Dr. Ackerman's lead. She's now holding principal's accountable and principal's are beginning to hold teachers accountable. So, I turned the tables and am holding the students accountable. The seniors recently started their own weekly newsletter called The Randolph Rant. I gave them resources and information to use for a story on these issues in their school. I reminded them that their city council representative had visited their school and thay they could also call on him for support. They said they're working on they story for next week's edition...Stay tuned.

Peace and Love.

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