Methodist-backed group tries to close Memphis' unemployment, skills gaps

via Memphis Business Journal

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Turner Construction are looking for the under-skilled and the unemployed to help them build the $280 million Methodist University Hospital expansion.

"That $200 million project is just coming out of the ground, and we'll need a workforce," said Patrick Johnston, a senior project manager with Turner Construction's Memphis office. "There’s a high demand for workforce, and the skilled-labor workforce is just not there. From what we’ve seen, the trajectory is getting further apart."

A subcontractor speaks to a group of job seekers at a previously held job fair as part of… more

A subcontractor speaks to a group of job seekers at a previously held job fair as part of… more

With more cranes on Memphis' horizon, Turner and Methodist are both part of the Minority Workforce Equity Program (MWEP), a grassroots council that is working to turn Memphis' unemployed into its working class.

In 2015, Turner was working with Methodist to meet minority participation goals on a new parking garage for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital when Methodist realized it could do more.

"Methodist surveyed [contractors] to see if they could share information about where their workers live, and Bartlett and Hernando [Mississippi] were big ones," said Richard Kelley, vice president of corporate facilities management for Methodist Le Bonheur and a member of the MWEP council. "Very little came from inside the 240 loop."

In an effort to fuel the construction workforce pipeline — while simultaneously closing Memphis' unemployment and business equity gap — Methodist and Turner created a program that would intentionally hire minorities from the four Memphis zip codes with the highest unemployment and train those workers on site.