Every week I interview someone who has successfully immigrated to the United States. The majority of these construction management professionals did so legally— often sacrificing fulfilling careers in their native countries while knowing full well that their credentials may not carry equally as someone who had built their career in the US from scratch.
What they do know is the more successful they become in their native countries the more they fear the governments that rule. In some circumstances they have even lost loved ones already to the violence that threatens their financial success. They all come here for freedom.
I am not an expert in this area by any means. The part I know is from interviewing too many people to count that have shared their journey and experiences from other countries to live permanently in the US. The majority of these people are from socialist countries with failed economies. Venezuela being one of the most recent.
What I have learned directly from them is that socialism is not charity or philanthropy. Socialism is an economic system where your income is owned by the society in which you belong. What is interesting is if you do a synonym check on socialism the top three words that come up are collectivism, communism, and communalism. All of them sound like they offer little say of those who belong.
The sad part about the talented people choosing to rebuild their careers here is that it’s not typically the construction knowledge that is the biggest learning curve. They can red line, design, and they can build. The learning curve is understanding the political, legal, communication, and socio- economic differences here in the US compared to the country they came from.
What are some of the differentiators newbies to the US need to learn?
In many of the other countries, architecture, engineering and construction are all under the responsibility of the same entity and leadership team. Here in the US there are many different contract delivery methods and more often than not the A & E is separate from the managing contractor that manages the work in place for the project. We typically have better documented and enforced governance when it comes to the responsibilities of a design professional verses a building professional.
Lawfulness and licensing in the US is regulated differently than in many countries around the world. Associations like the International Union of Architects is trying to instill standards and oversight for the international practice on the architectural side. The website will show you there are few countries that comply.
Many other countries do not have the significant building codes that we have in the US which require a knowledge of the process, cost, time, and agencies involved. In addition to building codes, we also have governance when it comes to safety with OSHA. Although a newcomer does not often see OSHA on their jobsite, if they were to be part of a team experiencing a jobsite injury— or God forbid experiencing one of the 13 average construction fatalities in the US per day— they and their employers would learn the workplace differences the hard way.
The number one challenge is always the interpretation of the English language and our culture which coincides with a construction professional’s ability to document effectively. Even the most well educated from other countries in design and building can only communicate in regards to the factors they are knowledgeable about. Until they have worked with each of the governing agencies and understand the process and etiquette here in the US, many don’t know what they don’t know leaving the risk with the employer who empowers and promotes before testing and educating in these areas.
English communication skills are a number one skillset required whether a native or transplant here in the US. Here’s a link to a previous article that expands further.
Although we have our own challenges in design and construction, most of the people immigrating from other countries will tell you it is nothing compared to the world of corruption they are familiar with in their respective countries (often at the hand of the governments in charge). A true pay to play system exists in these countries with no true reporting of actual numbers of fatalities which when compared far exceed those we have in the US.
Socialism sounds good because it sounds easy and heroic like Robin-Hood.
My husband’s family is from Norway, one of the wealthiest socialist countries in the world. Friends that own businesses there have confirmed what prominent billionaire businessman Thomas Peterffy predicted: “Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer, but the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in working hard and creating jobs.” The Norwegians are no longer motivated to better their careers as they are all financially backed by the government. Employers in Norway are struggling to find employees that add value.
Let’s help those that have moved here learn and succeed. Think about the country you want for tomorrow and for your children.
you have a desire to learn more about the concepts of communism and socialism, I would recommend The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen.
To the Land of the Free and the Brave!
Suzanne Breistol, Florida Construction Connection