Immigrants Flock to Construction Jobs

1 decade 2 years 6 months ago Wednesday, November 22 2006 Nov 22, 2006 Wednesday, November 22, 2006 7:20:36 PM CST November 22, 2006 in News

That could be because the work is familiar, and it's a high-paying job that doesn't require mastery of the English language. But, what about other immigrants who take jobs that do require English skills? How do immigrants choose their jobs? And how do employers deal with the language barrier?

"A lot of it is, these guys work hard, and they want to work," said Kevin Nichols, a DJ Roofing Supply manager. "They work sunup to sundown and not cry about it."

A September 2006 Pew Hispanic Center study said Hispanics account for 40 percent of the growth in the U.S. labor market in the past fiscal year. Most jobs were in construction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said a five-year housing boom attracted thousands of immigrant workers.

Silvino and Brandie Garay took advantage of that boom three years ago by starting Garay's Roofing in Columbia, one of the few Hispanic-owned companies in Boone County. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center reported only 3.4 percent of all firms in the county were Hispanic-owned in 2002.

But Silvino Garay doesn't think ownership makes a big difference because he relies on good recommendations for workers. As he puts it, the "work talks."

Hispanic-owned businesses do attract immigrant workers.

"Him being the owner of a construction company, the owner of a roofing company, they're like, 'Can you give me a job?'" Brandie Garay said.

However, Nichols of DJ Roofing Supply said construction in general attracts workers.

"If you're up on a roof, you know what you're up against. Doesn't matter what language you speak," he said.

But, working for a textbook distributor is about language. And a different group of immigrant workers, Bosnians, is attracted to textbook distributing.

MBS in Columbia employs about 80 of them, almost 10 percent of its workforce.

The International Institute in St. Louis reports the Bosnian immigrant population in that city has grown from less than 100 in 1990 to about 30,000 today.

So, how do immigrants with few or no English skills wind up in a textbook factory?

"Gave them the start they needed in the community, provided them with some other resources they need," explained Jerome Rader, MBS vice president of human resources. "Not all of them have very strong English skills, so we provided English as a Second Language classes here, on site, in all three of our shifts."

And MBS hired a translator.

"My main department is shelving, but mainly they use me for interpretation for benefits and enrollment, for reviews at one month, at three months," MBS translator Senad Music said.

One female employee told Rader she wanted to work parttime until her baby grew up. Music was her translator.

"When someone tells you, in your own language, 'This is f1 [on a keyboard], this is f5 [on a keyboard], this is your PIN, this is your name,' when you hear it one time, second time, third time, you can teach somebody else," Music said.

Sanela Veldar-Hamzic escaped from war-torn Bosnia 10 years ago. She has worked at MBS for 7 years, advancing to become one of the company's computer programmers.

"I really expected that my first job in America is going to be a geat job because I was sure I can do it," Veldar-Hamzic said, "but then nobody gave me a chance until I started school."

However, her upward mobility also required hard work.

"As long as you have an accent, I think you have to have a degree," Veldar-Hamzic said.

And, many Bosnians feel, they also need a security blanket of fellow immigrants for support and for jobs.

"My family's all here, my cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, everybody, everybody," Music said, "and most of them work in MBS."

Veldar-Hamzic agreed, up to a point.

"Having a community is a great thing, and its support," she said. "But to completely adjust, at some point, they have to get out."

For Veldar-Hamzic, the most difficult part of being an immigrant was feeling like one.

"It takes a long time to feel like you belong somewhere, and stop feeling as a stranger," she said. "That's really the hardest part, to overcome the feeling that you just came over here to work."

While working is the main goal for many immigrants, pay plays a role in what jobs they choose.

Thursday night in our "Immigrant In-Depth" series, KOMU looks at the wage issue, and if unions embrace immigrant workers.

More News

Grid
List
BRUNSWICK - SEMA returned to Brunswick today to continue its training for flood damage assessment. KOMU spoke with multiple... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 11:48:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
HOLTS SUMMIT - Chris Redel is the new Ward 2 Alderman for Holts Summit. The initial election took place... More >>
2 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 11:26:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
MID-MISSOURI - One child, 11 months old, died in Calverton Park, near St. Louis, on June 2, 2019. The temperature... More >>
3 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 10:07:26 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in Weather
CAMDENTON - The cause of a house fire is under investigation after crews battled flames in Camdenton Tuesday morning. ... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 8:52:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A cash reward has been increased for anyone with information on an injured three-month-old pit bull in St.... More >>
6 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:13:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY - Police are searching for two people after discovering graffiti on the National World War I Museum and... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 5:25:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – A major river crossing in Howard County opened Tuesday as flood waters receded. The Missouri Department of... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 4:38:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
GRAVOIS MILLS - A 93-year-old woman told police she blacked out before driving through the front door and into the... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 4:27:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
HIGBEE - The Higbee Senior Center will close its doors in 10 days. The board of directors said it can... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:35:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
HARTSBURG - Some people in Hartsburg say their yards are steeped in sewage after crews worked on a flood-clogged line.... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:20:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY - Doctors say a 15-year-old boy from Kansas City who fell onto a 10-inch knife is extremely lucky.... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:04:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Researchers from Lincoln University and the University of Missouri have been working collaboratively on a new type... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 3:03:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A man who pleaded guilty in April to trespassing at two Columbia schools ended up in jail again... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:29:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
MILLER COUNTY - An appeals court has overturned the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman accused of "recklessly" causing the... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:01:00 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Springfield man who killed his friend and dumped the body on the side of... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 12:23:57 PM CDT June 18, 2019 in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A St. Louis judge says Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature cannot cut off funding to abortion providers and... More >>
15 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 9:52:00 AM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS - Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is required to submit a "Plan of Correction" to the Missouri Department... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, June 18 2019 Jun 18, 2019 Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:54:00 AM CDT June 18, 2019 in News
CALIFORNIA - Moniteau County is considering regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) that are more restrictive than state law.... More >>
1 day ago Monday, June 17 2019 Jun 17, 2019 Monday, June 17, 2019 7:49:00 PM CDT June 17, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 72°
2am 69°
3am 69°
4am 68°
5am 67°