By: Earl Hall, Executive Director, Syracuse Builders Exchange
Long before governmental entities began to focus on “inclusivity” and other “workforce development” initiatives targeting minority, women and “disadvantaged” groups of people who may not have had a presence in particular segments of the economy, construction industry employers have tried for decades to include all people into the industry, including immigrants.
The United States of America provides all people equal opportunity to participate in the economy, including the regional construction industry. Determination, self-motivation, hard work, perseverance, and the will to succeed are human attributes necessary to be successful in life and business. Gul Ahmad Hamidi is an example of how an Afghanistan immigrant successfully entered the local workforce and pursued a career in the construction industry.
Hamidi was born in Afghanistan, earned a degree in Civil Engineering in New Delhi, India, and was a civil engineer and a construction project manager in Kandahar, Afghanistan. While his career accomplishments were impressive and his future full of opportunities, it all ended on August 31, 2021, when he escaped Afghanistan on a United States military C-17 cargo plane, leaving his family behind.
As an interpreter for the United States military, Hamidi was taken by the United States military and hidden for the month of August, before being rushed to one of the final C-17 cargo planes leaving Afghanistan. While on board, he assisted pilots by communicating important instructions and information to those on the plane, which was headed for Germany. Hamidi would spend the next several months at United States military bases in Germany and in Philadelphia, preparing to begin his new life in the United States.
In March of 2022, InterFaith Works of Central New York introduced Hamidi to me via an email. He expressed a strong interest in working in the construction industry as a project manager. After meeting Hamidi during two different interviews, it was apparent that he had all the characteristics necessary to not only become a successful employee, but a productive member of society as he embraced the United States’ way of life, freedom, and culture.
After interviewing with local construction companies and having nothing more than the clothes on his back and documents from the United States government, Hamidi was hired by one of the area’s premier general contractors. Today, Hamidi is enjoying the infancy of his construction career and the many wonderful benefits of living in central New York.
Hamidi is a shining example of one’s ability to pursue the American dream by applying the human attributes necessary to be successful in life and in one’s career. He escaped Afghanistan on the very last day before the Afghanistan government collapsed, now controlled by the Taliban. Arriving in central New York with nothing, Hamidi today has a car, an apartment, clothes, and money to enjoy the many entertainment opportunities central New York has to offer. He continues to send money back home to his parents in Afghanistan and saves money to someday own his own business or to buy a home.
Hamidi’s story reinforces the notion anyone can be successful in entering and participating in the construction workforce. Being successful in a career is not a right – it is earned. It is earned by self-motivation, hard work, perseverance, and the will to succeed. Overcoming adversity is something most people experience at some point in life, whether it is personal or career.
Hamidi’s story is compelling and is a prime example of how citizens in New York who really desire to enter the construction industry workforce can do so, if they have the drive and commitment to be successful in life and with their chosen career.