Too much work and not enough hands to do it. It's something that just about every contractor has dealt with. And these days, it often means hiring or subcontracting to people whose first language is Spanish, which complicates an already tough process.
Verify Insurance and Legality If you hire a subcontractor, make sure he's operating his business legally, advises Ricardo Gonzalez, CEO of training company Bilingual America in Orlando, Fla. Gold Seal Roofing and Construction in Tampa, Fla., verifies subcontractors' insurance and has its payroll service check applicants' driver's licenses and Social Security numbers.
“Many subs are just paying Hispanic workers cash,” Gonzalez says. “They give no training and are exposing themselves to liability in the event of serious injury.” And you, too, can be at risk: Attorneys are starting to hold general contractors responsible.
How to Find Them and Train Them Randy Brown, president of Clearwater Home Improvement in Mystic, Conn., says word-of-mouth works well for locating good people. Hispanic subs would rather work for someone who is a known quantity, someone who has hired relatives or friends, he says.
At Clearwater Home Improvement, Brown has someone on staff who speaks both Spanish and English, and he pays for subs to take a one-day GAF course on how to install roofing, offered in English and Spanish. The subs get to keep the manual, in both languages, for use in the field. The company has been sending between 20 and 40 guys each year to the course for the past four years.
Another training option is offered by Ardmore, Pa.–based Certified Contractors Network, which teaches Hispanic employees to be managers. The course is taught in English with simultaneous Spanish translation, says Scott Lemons, CCN's director of member services. Maggio Roofing in Takoma Park, Md., has hired more than 25 Hispanic employees in the last four years and sent several of them to the class. The contractor also has an interpreter at monthly companywide meetings. “Our meetings take twice as long that way, but it's worth it,” says president Scott Siegal.
No matter how many employees speak Spanish only, experts advise that contractors ensure at least one person on the jobsite speaks English fluently. Scott Barr, owner and general manager of Southwest Exteriors in San Antonio, agrees. “All our crew leaders must be able to communicate clearly with clients,” he says.