News‎ > ‎

Testimony delivered at the Philadelphia City Council Committee of Commerce & Economic Development

posted Nov 26, 2019, 5:15 PM by Louis Rodriguez   [ updated Nov 27, 2019, 3:50 AM ]
Committee of Commerce & Economic Development 

Louis Rodriguez, P.E., CEO and President of Rodriguez

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 @ 10:00  AM

Good afternoon.

I am Lou Rodriguez, CEO & President of Rodriguez, a civil engineering and land surveying company based here in Philadelphia and Chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, an organization which represents over 600 small businesses and corporations in this region.  

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about Education and Workforce Modernization.

Over the last five years Philadelphia has experienced unprecedented growth in terms of new construction of residential housing and commercial buildings.  This growth has led to tremendous wealth for some. However, our infrastructure is not being maintained at the same growth rate and has led to tremendous challenges for others.

Keeping pace with the rapid change in demand, and improving the quality of our water systems and roads requires financial resources but it also requires human resources, technical and non-technical employees that have the skills to do work.

As a former employee of the Philadelphia Water Department I understand the challenge of managing over 3,000 miles of water mains and sewers that serve a population of over 1.5 million people in one of America’s oldest cities much of which was built over 100 years ago and was not adequately maintained over its lifetime.

My business is built on supporting these goals and we employee 25 people that love infrastructure and Philadelphia and we want to be a part of the solution to this challenge.

However, my engineering business and many others in our region are faced with a challenge that is far from unique: there are not enough trained and experienced people to meet our growing demands.  Too often we are forced to spend 1-2 years and substantial resources to train these inexperienced engineer, only to risk losing them to an aggressive job market.

More troubling, we have problems finding workers for jobs that do not require a college degree such as draftsmen, construction inspectors, and land surveyors. These positions provide the greatest potential to the people that live in the communities that we serve but they are, by far, the hardest to fill.  We routinely interview people that attended local trade schools that lack the basic communication and math skills required to perform the duties of the job. 

If we are going to meet this challenge, there needs to be  meaningful alternatives to conventional college education that are supported by our by local governments and local corporations that teach people the relevant skills they need to be immediately productive in the workforce.  This is coming from someone that serves as a Board Trustee at Widener University, one of our region’s leading higher education institutions. 

That’s why in 2019 I formed Rodriguez University, a division of my company that is focused on training and developing workers for infrastructure jobs that do not require a college degree.  We partnered with Hopeworks, a non-profit organization, that has a 20-year track record of creating workforce development programs for under-served communities. We have just received two grants and will launch 

I wish to close by thanking Council for its support of the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project. This initiative is essential if we are to improve education and modernize the workforce in our region.  If successful, it will allow individuals that live in under-served communities to obtain meaningful jobs, such as supporting our aging infrastructure. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of this initiative.