Charles Jahrencjahren@iastate.edu email >
Associate Director, Construction Materials and Methods / Asset Management
About the research
In the construction industry, Hispanics have the highest rate of fatal work injuries among the racial/ethnic groups, and productivity in the field is limited by the language barrier between Hispanic workers and their supervisors and the level of education of many Hispanic craft workers. This research developed a training program designed to facilitate the integration process between American supervisors and Hispanic craft workers in a practical and cost-effective way, thus improving productivity and lowering fatality rates.
The Iowa State University research team conducted a survey of 38 American supervisors, representing 14 Iowa construction companies. Survey results confirm that communication is the main problem experienced by American supervisors in the jobsite. Many American supervisors also use or depend on a link-person (an individual who interprets tasks to the rest of the Hispanic crew) to communicate to the Hispanic crewmembers. Research findings show that language differences affect productivity and workplace safety in the construction industry. Additionally, the educational levels of Hispanic workers indicate that they may not have the literacy skills necessary to understand training materials.
This research developed two training courses designed to expand the Spanish communication skills of American supervisors. The research team modified the English-as-a-second-language course developed in Phase I into the Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) Survival Course. A series of technical training courses were also developed, titled Concrete Pavement Construction Basics (CPCB), that cover general practices in concrete pavement construction. They are much shorter and more specialized than the SSL course.
The CPCB courses provide American supervisors simple and practical communication tools on a variety of topics to choose from according to their specific needs.