Construction Service Workers
Wanda has grown from 2 to 13 employees while earning $3,000 in Good Jobs, Good Business rebates from PCV!
A San Diego-based small business, Construction Service Workers (CSW) works solely with underestimated workers and returning community members to provide temporary employment placement in the construction industry. In addition to employment services, the company provides several complementary services to its business partners including labor compliance education, mentor-protégé development, and outreach. As the only African American woman to own a construction staffing agency in the country, Wanda Rogers founded CSW in 2009.
In addition to the many barriers and obstacles a small business can face as it attempts to establish itself, Ms. Rogers also faced discrimination to secure contracts in the industry. Despite the trials, through her perseverance, dedication, and drive to make a positive impact in the community of underserved, Ms. Rogers has established CSW as staid local institution.
“It took me a long time to get where I am,’ said Wanda, styling purple lily flower in her hair, ‘I came from real estate, so I know how to hustle. I didn’t know a lot about construction when I started CSW, but I showed up and learned. I listened. I figured out how to pivot and maneuver in a male-dominated industry.”
Knowing the importance of networking and making a lasting impression, Wanda has taken to wearing a flower in her hair. With her signature hair adornment, her passion to make a difference, and her drive to success, Ms. Rogers has been making her mark on the industry. “Chasing contracts from San Diego to Sacramento,” her Mercedes has put on untold miles traversing from one corner of the state to another, and back.
As she has worked to establish CSW, pursuing opportunities across the state, she was faced with a similar statement from varying sources. In essence, the construction industry didn’t have enough workers, let alone workers with the right training. In reaction to hearing this, she thought, “Well, it’s because you’ve locked people up. And then you locked them out.”
She herself was experiencing systemic discrimination that was embedded in the state contracting programs, even well-intentioned ones. For example, CalTrans, and other state agencies in California, certified small businesses as minority-owned so they could compete for contracts. But they were certifying dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses in areas that those agencies would never hire from and had no need for. Ms. Rogers asked them why they certify businesses, like hers, that they would never hire or use, and found the non-answers disheartening.
During 2015 she signed her first real contract, and prior to that she became involved with CalTrans, where she was invited to sit on their statewide board. During her time on the board, from 2010-2016, Wanda proudly proclaimed “I sat on the construction committee, and I represented the voice of those businesses, like mine, which was absent before.” She has continued to be a voice for those like her, and for those whose voices aren’t easily heard.
Striving to bridge the gap between the underserved community members returning to the work force and the deficit in certified labor the construction industry has, Wanda started working with San Diego City College in 2018. This new partnership created a pre-apprenticeship program, which was designed specifically to fill in the gap. Ms. Rogers started going into prisons and letting people know this new program was open to them, and at the end of 2019 graduated her first cohort. She then found it was more than getting folks into a curriculum for the right training, she needed to assist them afterward. Many returning citizens needed housing and jobs, and her focus – and the focus of CSW — shifted.
With a new focus, she started to grow CSW and began cultivating a small team. Ms. Rogers’ growing team meant moving to a new office and securing capital from a traditional bank wasn’t possible. Through our partnership with Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, Wanda came to Pacific Community Ventures seeking a $150,000 loan to move her team and continue its expansion by bringing on additional staff and purchasing necessary equipment and supplies. We happily said yes.
In recent years, Construction Service Workers has generated local attention and was awarded a grant to start the SoCal PreApprenticeship Program through the County of San Diego. Wanda says that CSW’s mission is, “To provide excellent customer service to your business, and in doing so, we will provide your company with fully trained workers to assist you in meeting the goals and deadlines of your clients’ project projection dates.”
CSW has been a success story due to Wanda’s hard work and perseverance, and she wants to remind us that, “There are real economic and racial disparities for Black business owners. They say we’re not ready, but we are, and they’re the ones withholding opportunities.” CSW is a socially motivated enterprise and provides employment opportunities for those affected by incarceration and other social obstacles. CSW is presently certified as an 8a firm and DBE in 20 States. Wanda is very active in the community and her goal is to provide job opportunities to many people in the community, and those same job opportunities to people around the country.
We’ve been thrilled to work with Wanda these past two years, and to help her create good jobs. COVID left no industry unscathed, and construction also took a real hit starting in 2020. But despite the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, Wanda has grown from 2 to 13 employees, and has started offering payments via direct deposit, added health insurance, and her business is doing well enough that her CPA (which she previously didn’t have) has recommended she pay off her PCV loan early! All of this has resulted in $3,000 in Good Jobs, Good Business rebates from PCV.
And because of this growth she’s hired a program manager and intake coordinator for her PreApprenticeship Program, which is fueling more growth. The work and support of the additional team members is helping her sign MOUs with larger companies who have an interest in her PreApprenticeship Program and job placement. Such success has led to Wanda Rogers hiring an Operations Manager, HR manager, and more. In the last year and a half she’s hired 10 people for her own business, and placed 8 people in jobs (that pay at least $25 per hour). Wanda told us it’s important to her that she pays every person well, and that she’s now able to offer some benefits.
When it comes to her work with PCV, Wanda says, “Why are there so many restrictions on credit? If PCV worked with me, why wouldn’t others? I have a very low-interest SBA loan now because PCV afforded me an opportunity to put pieces in place and hire people, which allowed me to really ensure I was set up to grow and take advantage of contracts as they come up. It made a total difference. I expanded the office through my PCV loan and now we’ve outgrown it.”