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L.A. Construction Jobs Hiring Treated As Social Obligation

Aaron Liu |
September 14, 2011 | 5:05 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

Amidst a construction slump, PVJOBS continues to employ. (Creative Commons)
Amidst a construction slump, PVJOBS continues to employ. (Creative Commons)
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas talked jobs Wednesday at a formal luncheon in the Center at the Cathedral Plaza.

“Repeat after me,” he told the crowd. “Empower individuals. Strengthen families. Build communities.”

The crowd obliged.

“Empower individuals. Strengthen families. Build communities,” they said.

They had gathered to show their support for Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing construction job opportunities for “at-risk” adults within the L.A. community. Ridley-Thomas’ mantra echoed with those in attendance, many of whom see reviving construction as more than just simple economics.

“In terms of construction, yes there should be some kind of component to get our communities involved,” said Sharon Anderson, a jobs coordinator in attendance at the luncheon.

It wasn't just talk. For the Playa Vista organization, moral obligation has had results. Since its inception, the non-profit organization has created more than 3,500 construction jobs. Nearly nine out of ten the organization's job candidates have completed more than 500 hours of work. The organization plans to be involved in potential projects such as the modernization of the convention center and the construction of an NFL football field at L.A. Live – projects estimated to reel in jobs by the thousands.

Amid an economic recession and a five percent construction drop in L.A., the non-profit survives.

The organization's executive director, Ernest Roberts,  said more businesses should adopt a moral imperative and follow in his group's footsteps.

“It’s not only good P.R.” said Roberts. “Even just so they can help build these communities so they’ll use their services in the future – we need to think about things in the long term.”

Yet what makes the organization truly unique from other construction entities is its dedication towards giving “at-risk” adults a second chance.

“Working at PVJOBS has given me a sense of hope,” said Nathan Covington, a laborer who started working with the non-profit after enduring rough times, including jail. “It has allowed me to take care of my family, to take care of my baby over there.” He motioned toward a stroller sitting by his family seated ahead.

With the help of the organization, Convington has managed to work through the recession.  

“I’m in my 40s,” the Inglewood native said. “Not everyone gets a second chance.”

At the luncheon, Convington, Ridley-Thomas, electrician Jennie Garcia, architecture intern Kevin Sherrod and contractor Hathaway Dinwiddie were commended by the non-profit for their efforts and goodwill.

“Going to jail is easy,” Covington told the crowd in an introductory video. “Making it in the world is hard.”

During his keynote speech, Ridley-Thomas challenged the crowd to take action and warned them about the dangers of preaching empty rhetoric without following through.

“Not everyone talking about heaven is going there,” he said to rousing applause. “Just like James Brown said, talking loud…”

The crowd obliged.

“…and saying nothing."

They understood.

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