Diversity & Inclusion in the Damage Prevention Industry

IN 2002, the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) was just beginning to enforce the state’s Dig Law in what was increasingly becoming a very diverse workforce in the construction industry. From the beginning, one of the Georgia Public Service Commission’s most important goals was to reach the Hispanic community as the language barrier was a very big obstacle in keeping them safe while working on construction sites. The GPSC succeeded by partnering with the Hispanic Contractor’s Association of Georgia (HCAG), participating in bilingual construction safety fairs, reaching out to workers at jobsites across the state, and through Georgia’s Dig Law training in Spanish.

Fast forward 20-plus years to 2023 and what you will find is an even more diverse population in the damage prevention industry. The main difference is that the language barrier is not the issue that it once was. Many of today’s workers are the sons and daughters of immigrants and they grew up bilingual as citizens of the United States and many have become leaders in the damage prevention industry, including three outstanding employees currently working and excelling as Locate Technicians in Georgia.

Cristal Garcia began her career as a locate technician with the City of Lawrenceville Damage Prevention Department in April of 2022. She comes from several generations of migrant farm workers who settled in California and her goal has always been to break that cycle with her generation. Her father came to Georgia when he heard about opportunities in the construction industry and the rest of the family soon followed.

Cristal graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in 2009 and is very thankful for her education, something that her parents were never able to have. Cristal’s biggest motivation is her children, a son who is ten and a daughter who is five. She likes working with the City of Lawrenceville where she can learn and grow professionally and be financially secure. Through her work in the Damage Prevention Department, Cristal joined the Leading Women of Damage Prevention, a national organization that celebrates women in the construction and utility industries. While she doesn’t see very many women out on the jobsite, she finds the other workers to be very supportive and respectful. One of Cristal’s goals is to eventually learn the business from the inside and to support other women working in the industry.

Khanh Nguyen has been a locate technician since 2006. He was born in South Vietnam. One month after Khanh’s birth, his father was taken away by the Viet Cong and never seen again. His mother eventually remarried a United States serviceman and followed him to Germany. Once back in the United States, she sponsored Khanh who came to Florida in 1989. Six months later, Khanh moved to Georgia and learned English in a second language class at Gwinnett Technical College. In 1990, his soon to be wife also traveled from Vietnam to Georgia. They are parents to David, who attended Georgia Gwinnett College and currently works for the City of Snellville Police Department, and has served in the roles of uniformed officer, detective and was recently promoted to Sergeant. Khanh is one of the longest-serving locate technicians in the department.DPP -- Diversity and Inclusion Pix 1

Long T. Nguyen came to the United States from South Vietnam in 1990 as a refugee. He graduated from high school in Vietnam and wanted to attend college when he came to the United States, but he had no money and didn’t speak English. Long began working during the day and learned English at a second language class at night. In 1995, he became a United States citizen. In 2019, he became a locate technician. Long married at 25 and has three children. His son graduated from Georgia State University in Atlanta with a degree in computer science. His oldest daughter graduated from Emory with a degree in business. Long’s youngest daughter began her studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design and is currently studying animation. Long says that he is extremely happy to work for the City of Lawrenceville as a locate technician and to live in the United States.

Today, much of the City’s outreach to potential new locate technicians is done by our employees who speak English as a second language. They are often approached on the jobsite by others who look like them and have the desire to learn, contribute and succeed in our industry. In early 2000, the unmet need was overcoming the language barrier. Today, the unmet need is staffing in the locating industry. There, at the intersection, lies the opportunity.

Lisa Clark McKnight


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