Guest Worker Program
For the past 5 years, the masonry industry has been working as the American economy has recovered from the recession to highlight the need for a qualified workforce in the construction and masonry industries and enact programs that would boost career and technical education (CTE) programs throughout the country. The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is pleased to see that Congress has heeded our, and so many other industries’, call to focus on workforce development, career and technical training, and on boosting American infrastructure and the resurrection of the American manufacturing sector.
The MCAA remains committed to standing with Congress and the Administration as you craft programs to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, boost our economy, and expand the middle class throughout every region of America. With that being said, we also remain concerned that due to numerous factors, the masonry industry, and construction industry as a whole, faces an environment where there are currently no available, qualified employees or where there is a heavy bias against entering the workforce in a skilled trade. According to NCCER (formerly the National Center for Construction Education and Research) and its program “Build Your Future” there are nearly 300,000 jobs that will be open throughout the United States in the masonry/bricklaying field in the next three years alone.
The MCAA supports a broad based, comprehensive immigration reform approach that includes provisions to secure our nation’s borders, creates a temporary guest worker program that meets the demand for labor, and creates a process for addressing the undocumented currently employed in the U.S. Recent estimates have shown that the construction industry will require an average of 185,000 new workers per year in the coming years to meet growing workforce demands, while at the same time baby boomers are continuing to retire at a very fast rate. As evidenced by the data, the construction industry faces a growing problem of a shortage of skilled labor; some of this insufficiency is being addressed by the immigrant workforce and we would encourage you to include much needed reforms to guest-worker and visa programs as you move forward on infrastructure investment and immigration packages.
In early 2004, then President George W. Bush proposed a guest worker program under the pretense that will be a system “matching willing workers with willing employers”. The following set of ideas made up President Bush’s plan and MCAA would support a plan based on similar principles:
- Eligible to participants applying from their home countries as well as to unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States (unauthorized immigrants would be required to pay a fee and prove that they are currently employed).
- The number of visas available for this program would be set to correlate with the number of open, available jobs.
- Visas would be portable, i.e. a visa would not be tied to a specific job but the immigrant would be able to change jobs.
- The temporary visas would be valid for 3 years and would be renewable.
- Immigrants applying from abroad would require an offer of employment from an American employer for a job that the employer could not fill with a domestic worker.
- After the initial domestic registration phase for unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States, the program would only be applicable to newcomers applying from their home country.
- Creation of an electronic database of willing foreign workers and willing American employers. After verifying that a reasonable effort was made to hire a U.S. citizen has been made, the government would then facilitate a match and begin processing the temporary work visa for an eligible applicant.