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Deaf Employment: Construction

 

Fantasia Stensland
8/22/07

Employment of the Deaf: Construction

The Deaf population throughout the world faces many challenges in life. Others who do not understand deaf culture or people often discriminate against the deaf. One of the more troubling statistics for the deaf population is the unemployment rate. As the National Unemployment rate can fluctuate from 4% to 6% for the general public, the unemployment rate for the deaf is usually over 60% in most states. These statistics beg the question, why are we not utilizing our capable individuals?

As a woman, I have faced my own discrimination in the work place. Being a woman in the construction industry, I know I am a minority, as women make up less that 10% the work force whether it is labor or management. I believe it is through my personal experiences of knowing and proving I am capable of doing what others are skeptical of that allows me to see the value in every worker. I believe deaf people can be very successful in the construction industry at every level.

While researching deaf people and construction, I found the resources to be limited. This was not a huge surprise as I myself have never once encountered a deaf person in any position at any construction or construction related company in my 10 years of experience. Construction is a diverse industry and it is full of opportunities for the deaf. Construction not only employs carpenters, plumbers and electricians but also, design professionals, architects, engineers, AutoCAD drafters, accountants, and many, many more. In most construction office environments talking and speaking voices become annoying distractions from the intensely detailed work that is involved. I find it ironic that in these office environments, hearing employees are “tuning out” by listening to ipods or closing office doors for silence yet no one realizes the opportunity before them. In addition to the already conducive environment, any technology needed to assist deaf in communication is readily available and relied on in construction. Portable computers w/ wireless access, Blackberries, cell phones with text capabilities, even job site portable offices are all required tools for construction companies. In an article in the New Mexico Business Weekly on Vocational training for the deaf, the author states, “The national average cost to an employer for equipment expenses to facilitate hiring a deaf employee is only $500… and 73 percent of employers report that their employees with disabilities do not require accommodation at all.” (Adams, 2004) When that figure is compared to the now popular optional cost of drug testing employees, the $500 figure seems insignificant.

There are many benefits to hiring a deaf employee. As the construction industry struggles to find dependable, capable workers, the future outlook for skilled workers is grim (Ireland, 2007). Deaf and other disabled employees have proven they are loyal and reliable. These are two qualities that have become harder and harder to find by builders and designers as the labor market has continued to tighten over the years. Another added benefit employers can take advantage of is a tax credit for up to $5,000 when providing accommodations to deaf or hearing impaired persons (Berke, 2007). The greatest benefit though is creating diversity in the work place. Creating a diverse and supportive work environment can benefit the company and it’s employees equally. Some of the benefits employers attribute to diversity in the workplace are; attracting the best talent, better retention among employees, improved productivity, gaining new market share, and increased sales and profits (Lockwood, 2005). These factors and others are all reasons construction firms should take advantage of the opportunities available to train and hire deaf people.

As more and new deaf schools expand the curriculum to include construction related vocational training programs, the deaf community should benefit. Up until now, there has been little opportunity for deaf to enter the construction job market. Most schools that have realized the potential and implemented programs are in the UK. Even Gallaudet University does not yet offer undergraduate degrees in Engineering, Architecture, or Construction. Markets today are more competitive than ever and as they expand globally, each company must find new and creative competitive advantages. Construction and design companies, as well as the deaf education system should quickly realize the enormous opportunity before them and act.


Bibliography

Adams, Celene (2004). Vocational training for the deaf is sign of the times. New Mexico Business Journal.

Berke, Jamie (n.d.) Job- Information on Deafness for Employers. 18 Aug. 2007. http://deafness.about.com/od/employmentandworking/a/employers.htm?p=1 .

“Career and Tcchnology Education Camp.” 2006. 6 Aug. 2007. . http://csdr-cde.ca.gov/ctecamp

“Constrution.” (n.d.) Doncaster College for the Deaf 6 Aug. 2007. http://www.deaf-college.com/courses/construction/Course_Leaflet.pdf.

Ireland, Beck (2007, Jan.) Wanted: Skilled Labor – A robust economy strains the ranks of a qualified workforce. 18 Aug. 2007. http://ecmweb.com/mag/electric_wanted_skilled_labor .

Lockwood, Nancy (2005, June). Leveraging the Power of Difference for Competitive Advantage. SHRM Research Quarterly, 2.

“Occupational Training Opportunities for the Deaf.” (n.d.) Oklahoma School for the Deaf. 3 Aug. 2007. http://www.osd.k12.ok.us/otod.html .

 


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