UChicago expands diversity and local employment on construction projects

construction workers

The University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Medical Center are expanding their efforts to increase the participation of minorities, women and local residents in construction projects, creating more ambitious workforce diversity goals and developing a new mentor-protégé program.

The University has increased its goal for the participation of certified minority-owned contracting firms from 25 percent to 35 percent, in line with the medical center’s goal. The University and the medical center have increased the goal for certified women-owned firms from 5 percent to 6 percent and raising the Chicago residency goal for on-site construction workers to 40 percent. The changes are intended to increase construction workforce diversity and align the University and medical center with the same goals.

The University and the medical center are also working together to develop a mentor-protégé program to help smaller minority- and women-owned contracting firms gain technical and administrative expertise that will enable them to successfully compete for construction projects at UChicago and elsewhere.

The efforts reflect UChicago’s commitment to enhancing business diversity and expanding economic opportunities in the neighborhoods surrounding its campus. In recent years, UChicago has been increasingly recognized as a leader in business diversity because of efforts to increase the number of women and minority suppliers in professional services and on construction and renovation projects. Along with the newly aligned goals for construction contracting, the University and medical center will continue to work with contractors to place a direct emphasis on hiring qualified workers residing within eight zip codes near the campus.

The medical center introduced minimum goals for the participation of certified women- and minority-owned firms on capital construction projects in 2001, and the University introduced minimum goals for capital construction projects of $2 million or more in 2005. As part of the alignment, both have raised the Chicago residency goal for onsite construction projects to 40 percent, from 30 percent at the University and 35 percent at the medical center. The current goals for onsite workforce hours by women and minorities will remain in place. The new goals will apply to all University and medical center construction projects.

“The health and vitality of our community have long been cornerstones of UChicago Medicine’s commitment to strengthening the South Side, and our construction diversity program is just one way we support the economic health and development of our neighborhoods,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, executive vice president for medical affairs. “This joint initiative demonstrates, in a very tangible way, our commitment to the stability and growth of local businesses and the local economy.”

To support the contracting goals, the University and the medical center have developed a mentor-protégé program that will help prepare certified women- and minority-owned firms seeking to grow their business to better compete for major construction projects both on and off the UChicago campus. Through the program, protégé firms work with prime contractors or construction managers who can provide industry knowledge and expertise to strengthen their skills in specific areas. The program initially focuses on architecture, engineering and construction.