Not Enough Qualified Workers in D.C.?

Unemployment in some D.C. neighborhoods is as high as 25 percent. At the same time, cranes fill the skies in pockets of the city, signaling economic activity. So why not encourage hiring unemployed D.C. residents for those projects?

That was the intent behind tightening the District’s hiring rules for projects receiving city money. But now builders and contractors say that the new hiring standards are impossible to meet because the city simply lacks qualified workers.

Such sentiments can be frustrating to those D.C. residents who have completed training programs but still have trouble finding work. But at the same time, many people do face major barriers to getting hired: one in 10 D.C. residents has a criminal record, and in Ward 8, which has the highest unemployment rate, one in five adults hasn’t completed high school.

The D.C. Building Industry Association has not yet decided whether to fight the new law, according to the group’s president, Ernie Jarvis. Jarvis, senior vice president at First Potomac Realty Trust, said he wasn’t sure how many projects each year would be affected by the new rules but said he hoped that the council would reconsider the hiring requirements because he didn’t think there were a sufficient number of qualified D.C. residents to fill those positions.

“We want to employ D.C. residents,” Jarvis said. “You have to first improve K-12 education.”

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