Chip head shot 2  State Sen. Chip Shields   
     July 2, 2013

    Amanda J. Hess




 Bill promoting diversity in construction workforce passes state legislature


SB 831A increases funding for training programs aimed at increasing workforce diversity in construction trades


SALEM- Although much of the spotlight at the state legislature has been placed on a "grand bargain" over the last few days, the Oregon Senate and House succeeded in passing a monumental workforce training bill designed to increase opportunties for women and minorities in the construction trades. 


Senate Bill 831A, which passed with broad bipartisan support in the House yesterday and in the Senate on June 29, directs the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to spend up to $2.1 million of federal funds on construction workforce diversity and pre-apprenticeship training programs for women and members of minority groups.


"This bill ensures that all Oregonians have an equal opportunity to work in the high-wage construction trades," said Senator Chip Shields (D-Portland), a chief sponsor of the bill.


The initiative stems from the desire to address the documented hardships that women and minorites have faced in gaining access to construction jobs. Current law authorizes ODOT to use federal flexible highway funds to involve more women and minorities in the workforce through training programs, job site mentoring, skill-building classes, and other opportunities.  Each year, ODOT must file a report which documents the effectiveness of these programs at increasing diversity in the highway construction workforce.


"Workforce development programs are crucial to helping more Oregonians work their way into the middle class," said Senate Majority Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). "Offering more opportunities to women and minorities strengthens Oregon's workforce and trains more workers for the needs of our growing economy."


SB 831A provides for a 40 percent increase in funding for workforce development programs targeted toward women and minority groups, such as those provided by Constructing Hope and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. in North Portland.


"These additional funds will allow us to expand our programs to women in underserved parts of the state," said Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. "Women across the state will now have greater access to living-wage jobs in the construction trades." 


Senate Bill 831A passed the Senate on a 28-1 vote and the House on 54-1 vote, with some members excused.  It will now proceed to the Governor to sign into law.