Supplier diversity to play key role in IIJA work: Skanska director

To fill the workforce gap, construction has had tap underrepresented groups to staff jobsites and make efforts to lower or remove barriers to entry into the industry. 

Diversity initiatives on projects aren’t a new concept. This month, Skanska USA announced it had appointed Joycelyn Yue to lead its national supplier diversity initiative. 

Based in Los Angeles, Yue will lead professionals in over 23 offices to sharpen the major builder’s efforts in supplier diversification.

Here, Construction Dive chats with Yue about the benefits and challenges of supplier diversity initiatives.

The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

CONSTRUCTION DIVE: We often hear about initiatives to bring diverse subs and suppliers onto projects. Why is it important to do so? What are the benefits to contractors and the industry at large?

Joycelyn Yue

Permission granted by Skanska

 

JOYCELYN YUE:  Diverse contractors often remained underutilized and underdeveloped. Making a concerted effort to include them broadens our community engagement strategy and in turn, our economic impact.

Benefits accrue for all parties that incorporate diversity initiatives. For subcontractors and suppliers, Skanska’s outreach efforts create opportunities for companies who might not have otherwise thought to partner with Skanska. For owners, bringing new and diverse firms to the table helps drive competition and innovation, as well as new connections to the community.

By nature of their scale, diverse contractors may demonstrate more efficient business practices that are essential to compete with larger, more developed companies. 

We’ve also reported on missed or untracked metrics and compliance issues with supplier diversity goals. What are the hurdles to ensuring these goals are met? What more can be done to ensure there is follow-through behind these goals?

YUE: The keys to success are preparation and planning. Skanska has a robust supplier diversity compliance program that equips our project teams to do their best to meet or exceed supplier diversity goals. We have a staff of seasoned and dedicated professionals 100% committed to supplier diversity. We track our performance and continually review our data to learn from our successes and challenges.

We don’t usually have influence over the goals, but when we do, we counsel our clients to set goals that address the real disparities and opportunities in the community. On the capacity side, we’re constantly conducting outreach to meet new diverse businesses, and use our construction management building blocks program to give our diverse business partners the tools they need to succeed.

At a time of economic uncertainty with inflation and prolonged supply chain issues, how vital is it to meet those goals? 

YUE: Businesses of all scales may face challenges in the economic climate ahead, however now more than ever, it’s important to further utilize and support small businesses that reflect diversity across all of our project portfolio. 

The need for supply chain diversification has never been more critical. Older skilled workers are retiring at a faster rate than can be filled by young entrants, who are moving away from trades toward less labor-intensive employment. Investing in the diversity of workforce development can support the country’s shift toward a more self-reliant economy that can withstand current and future supply chain disruptions.

The IIJA has goals to bring underrepresented groups onto projects. How do you foresee supplier diversity playing a role in the upcoming influx of infrastructure projects? 

YUE: There are tremendous opportunities for diverse businesses on these projects, which will come in all sizes. Supplier diversity will play a huge role in ensuring access and inclusion of diverse firms to these infrastructure projects. When a project is large or even a megaproject, CM/GCs who are engaged in supplier diversity know how to approach these projects to create opportunities for diverse and emerging businesses.

Supplier diversity will play a leading role in supporting these goals. While construction providers in the federal sector are familiar with the requirements of small business utilization, there remains a shortfall of relevant supplier diversity expertise in the commercial sector which often does not mandate similar obligations. 

Supplier diversity will be indispensable in helping a company identify qualified diverse business partners. This is critical in light of increasingly competitive labor markets and the timeliness needed to secure these critical resources.

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