Jim Deslandes | Deslandes Construction owner and president
Deslandes Construction owner and President Jim Deslandes has spent 40 years in his family business. The Warwick-based company does commercial, residential and remodeling jobs. He says the pandemic has made it harder to find capable employees.
1. What kind of impacts has COVID-19 had on your business? On the renovation side, going into existing homes, clients have been concerned about employees coming in; you have to have the correct protocol to prevent issues. For new constructions, you can spread out and there are no existing clients on-site. We’ve seen a big uptick on small projects, such as deck expansions and small renovations.
2. What safety adjustments have you had to make due to the pandemic? At the office, we are providing [personal protective equipment], masks and sanitizers. On the job sites, we are making sure we provide fresh water if they need to wash their hands and foremen have a supply of masks and sanitizer. For potential customers, we are going to find what their comfort level is, [such as] how many people we can put on the job. Many people are pretty proactive and are taking their own precautions before we even get there.
3. Do you think the number of qualified workers available for hire has increased or decreased during the pandemic? It is difficult in the trades to find employees. It has gotten worse because a lot of them, especially on the lower end of scale of pay, are collecting and getting stimulus checks and can make more money than if they are laboring. It seems that there is not a lot of qualified people out there; not a lot of youths want to get into what we do in construction. But the salaries now are such that they get paid very well; you can easily make six figures if you are a talented foreman.
4. What types of nontraditional candidates would you consider hiring? I have never seen a woman come in applying for a job, but if she had the talent, I’d hire her. I also don’t see a lot of minorities when we advertise. I look for the quality of the person, that’s what matters to me. … I think if people are exposed [to the opportunity], they see it would be a great pathway to get interested in.
5. Have employee training protocols changed due to COVID-19? They haven’t changed that much, other than instructing new employees on what they have to do going into a new job site prior to getting there, [such as] keeping distance, and educating them on the protocol.
6. How many people who started in entry-level positions have advanced through the company? I have a lot of people [who] have been with me for many years. I am fortunate that I retain my people, but I also treat them very well and that’s the key to any business and to holding on to your employees. I try to stress to young ones coming in to the industry to try to … find someone to give you benefits. Lots of companies pay cash under the table and cash looks great, but it doesn’t help you down the road. Work for good companies – and there are plenty of us out there.