Superintendent TRADES Group Partners With YEP to Strengthen Webcor’s DEI Efforts in the Field

Webcor’s Trade Respect and Diversity Engagement (TRADES) group has partnered with Youth Employment Partnership in Oakland.

March 31, 2022


While commuting to work at the SFPUC Biosolids Digester project in San Francisco last fall, Superintendent Li Li Fang noticed the headquarters and training facility for Youth Employment Partnership (YEP), a youth and young adult employment training agency in Oakland. Knowing that Webcor’s Trade Respect and Diversity Engagement (TRADES) group – a recently created committee of superintendents dedicated to improving DEI efforts in the field – was focused on increasing recruitment to the union trades, she decided to connect with YEP and discuss the possibility of a partnership with Webcor.

“Webcor has prioritized the recruitment of Bay Area high school students in an effort to increase our visibility and young people’s interest in a career within the trades,” Li Li says. “However, the feedback we’ve received is that a large portion of high school students are still more interested in pursuing the college route than options in the trades. I suggested to the TRADES group that we also reach out to youth employment programs, as the population of students they work with are typically already considering vocational training in lieu of college after high school. With that in mind, I decided to make the call to YEP.”

According to YEP’s website, the organization’s guiding vision is that “all Oakland youth and young adults will have the necessary work history, experience and soft skills to be self-sufficient, stable, and engaged members of our communities.” YEP offers critical resources that are key to building successful careers, including job training, job placement, access to education, and support services/referrals to “help keep youth on a positive path.”

“As we expand our portfolio of work to the East Bay with the current construction of Parcel J and forthcoming work on Parcel E at Brooklyn Basin in Oakland, it is important for us to reach out and engage with the local community,” Li Li says. “YEP’s goals align perfectly with Webcor’s efforts to recruit and hire from local communities so that our jobsites reflect the diverse communities in which we build.”

How the Partnership Began

After reaching out to YEP and explaining how Webcor’s mission of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the construction industry aligned with their own, Li Li asked Assistant Superintendent Skye Murphy and Sr. Superintendent Evan Sims (who’s also involved with CityBuild and Fortitude) if they’d be interested in visiting YEP’s training headquarters and setting up an introductory meeting. After expressing their support, they scheduled a tour of YEP’s facility and sat down with the organization’s executive director and director of development to learn more about the program and its success.

“Our conversation kept returning to two key questions: What gaps or barriers keep program trainees from ‘getting their foot in door’ to construction careers, and how can Webcor leverage its resources and relationships to close those gaps, lower those barriers, and hire more local young people on our projects?” Skye says. “Since that kick-off meeting, I coordinated our first event with Webcor carpenters at YEP’s headquarters in early February, while Evan and Li Li have worked with Sr. Vice President Greg Chauhan to send letters of support for grant applications.

“Our approach is ‘slow and steady wins the race’; we are really trying to be realistic and specific with all action items to ensure we can follow through and keep methodical forward progress going. We’re excited that Parcel J team members Mark Delgado (project director) and Dan Deane (superintendent, Concrete) have joined the conversation and are informing our strategy with their expertise.”

Current Progress & What’s to Come

Webcor’s first collaborative YEP event was a hands-on skills-building workshop at their Oakland training facility. Career carpenters Bobby Brown, Pablo Contreras, and Kendall discussed the importance of safety, teamwork, and tenacity for a career in construction with the trainees. They spent the rest of the afternoon sharing their building knowledge while working side-by-side with the trainees on their current project: the conversion of a historic building into a dormitory for young adults struggling with housing insecurity (a common challenge facing YEP’s constituents).

“After the training event, YEP shared they were awarded a $500,000 grant in no small part due to one of our letters of support,” Skye says.

Several next steps to ensure the continued growth of the Webcor/YEP collaboration are in the works, including a potential project site tour,  informal “meet & greet” conversations with select YEP participants, and another hands-on skills-building workshop led by Webcor carpenters.

Alignment With Webcor’s Core Values

“Given the construction industry’s need for skilled labor and Webcor’s commitment to improving DEI in construction, we are excited to be collaborating with YEP and hope to connect their participants with local jobs in the trades,” Skye says. “Our partnership with YEP aligns with many of Webcor’s core values:

  • COMMUNITY: We are engaging an established community organization and asking how we can support their success, provide solutions, and better lives in the communities where we build and live.
  • BOLD: These gaps/barriers are not easy to solve and will require us to ask tough questions and be bold enough to persevere.
  • TRUST: We’re demonstrating that Webcor is not just in this for optics; we’re listening to YEP’s experience and challenges, saying what we mean, and following through on our promises to build trust with this organization and its participants.
  • CRAFT: We are engaging young builders and enhancing their hands-on skills. We hope to help them create lasting careers in construction by strengthening their access to opportunities. This partnership also aligns with Webcor’s mission to support greater diversity in the construction industry through its recruiting practices.”

Li Li says the most rewarding part of partnering with YEP has been seeing the trainees’ genuine enthusiasm for learning about construction. “Their willingness to learn and overall work ethic are truly amazing – it’s contagious,” she says. “Working with YEP reminds me of the reason I got into construction in the first place: the people and their respect for the craft.”