According to Mike Weiss, past chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), while there are issues and areas of disagreements, Hispanics represent a significant solution to the semiskilled construction labor shortage.
Attention to issues from immigration law reform and enforcement to outreach has been building for several years, but at NAHB it has reached tidal wave proportions. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment of our society and serious attention is being giving to the types of homes desired, marketing to Latinos and of course to dealing with the language issue. We have seen new Spanish language magazines on construction, "Construction Spanish" classes and seminars at shows as efforts by remodelers, home builders and mortgage lenders try to better understand this quickly growing segment of our population.
Many who have worked with and around Latino crews are aware that they have drive and desire to be productive. They came to America for the same reason our ancestors did, to find a better life and being able to communicate is key to that.
HBI, the Home Builders Institute of NAHB is nearing completion of a great approach to learning English, called "Sed de Saber" or "Thirst for Knowledge." It is on the Leapfrog(TM) toy platform and is very easy to use. It is written for residential construction and is designed to allow the student to work by him or herself and at their own speed. The prototype has gotten very enthusiastic endorsement from everyone who has seen it. The hospitality industry has used the product very successfully.
Here is a sobering thought - over 20 percent of residential construction accidents are traceable to language difficulties. This is hurting the workers' compensation coverage of home builders, but it is fixable. Sure you can start out with what I call "hammer and nail" Spanish but more is needed than just a Band-Aid.