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."
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.