Working to advance DEI efforts within the building transportation industry
By Amy Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.
According to a recent article on CNBC, for the first time since 2017, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) progress in the workplace stalled in 2022. I am happy to report that for the elevator industry, however, 2022 was a year of DEI promise.
DEI has been a NEII priority for several years. It was clear that diversity within the building trades needed to improve and that progress could be made to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and feel like they belong. But where to start? And where could NEII add the most value to help move industry DEI efforts forward? We had a lot of ideas, but we also had a lot to learn.
As we worked to gather information, formulate a strategy, and build a foundation, NEII focused its early efforts on increasing awareness about our industry and supplementing the promotion of open recruitments. We developed a flier in partnership with the National Elevator Industry Education Program (NEIEP), the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC), the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund (EIWPF) to help drive interested parties to NEIEP’s website where they could learn more about working in the building transportation industry and how to apply. NEII has been reaching out to organizations representing diverse populations within close geographical location to one of the industry’s open recruitments since 2020, but it was during 2022 that emailed the 100th organization, and we didn’t stop there.
2022 was a year where we saw advancements on other industry DEI efforts as well. Here are a few highlights:
- NEII had learned that many women in the field – and even some men – were provided personal protective equipment (PPE) that did not fit their body size or shape. After confirming that all NEII’s Board member companies were offering inclusive PPE, we issued an industry challenge in August 2022 as NEII’s first public DEI initiative. The PPE Challenge encourages all vertical transportation companies to provide size- and gender-inclusive equipment and uniforms so all technicians can be safe and comfortable while working in the field.
- In October, NEII and its member companies participated in Construction Inclusion Week (CIW) – an initiative meant to build awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by providing content and resources and fostering conversations that create alignment in the industry. NEII had amplified CIW messaging previously but developed industry-specific tools, coordinated a social media initiative and supported other industry engagement in 2022.
- NEII also attended the 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference (TWBN) in late October. This annual event brings together women from all the building trades. NEII’s team was able to attend valuable education sessions and meet female technicians from across the U.S. and Canada, many of whom shared candidly about their experiences on jobsites at all levels of their careers. NEII’s participation at TWBN also helped us convey the support of NEII’s member companies to DEI and this event, as well as develop relationships with industry partners.
- NEII attended the SkillsUSA 2022 Leadership & Skills Conference and began discussions about a potential partnership with the organization. SkillsUSA is national organization with chapters in every state and more than 300,000 student participants nationwide – a majority of whom are from underrepresented populations. It provides a network to increase awareness about working in the building transportation industry and a pipeline of young people already interested in working in the trades.
In my recent article in Elevator World, I shared why DEI should be a priority for all elevator companies, including the extensive benefits you get from having a diverse workforce. I included a simple three-step process elevator companies can follow to get started incorporating DEI into their culture, and suggested partner organizations that can help elevator companies develop a diverse pipeline of talent.
Since joining NEII in 2010, I have learned many things, perhaps none more important than this: the building transportation industry is special. And the heart of this industry is the people. We now need to make sure that all people have the opportunity to join this amazing industry, are welcomed and treated fairly. I am proud of the strides made in recent years, but there is still a lot of real work that needs to be done.
So what does the future hold for DEI in the elevator industry? NEII will continue to build on the work we’ve done so far and the real promise that began to emerge in 2022 on the efforts I’ve discussed today and others. What will you do – provide inclusive PPE? Promote the industry and open recruitments to a broader universe? Help a new worker feel welcome on the jobsite? Or will you identify something different and reach out to NEII to partner with you? I look forward to hearing from you on how we can advance DEI in our industry.
NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator Company and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries.
For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org.