Reshaping the Construction Industry

A report from a bipartisan panel of Texas lawmakers says companies that pretend their employees are independent subcontractors are undermining free markets and encouraging illegal immigration, among other serious problems. The practice of worker misclassification, as Construction Citizen has reported many times, happens when an employer intentionally skirts the law by paying workers as independent subcontractors when they meet the legal definition of employees and should be paid as such.

Preventing workers from being paid as employees denies them basic protections and costs taxpayers millions each year because employers are avoiding payroll taxes on that labor. Employers who follow the law are investing in a sustainable workforce, which is undermined by worker misclassification. Many of those ethical employers have urged lawmakers to do more to contain what they’ve called “a cancer” in the heart of the construction industry.

So, the Texas House Business and Industry Committee this past year took an in-depth look at the issue, including testimony from construction industry leaders, labor advocates and others who are united in combating misclassification. Read more » about Texas House Panel finds that worker misclassification “compromises free markets” and promotes “lawlessness”

Houston is growing, and with that growth comes jobs. More jobs mean a stronger economy. But as employers have a difficult time finding qualified, skilled workers, San Jacinto College steps in offering affordable training for the hard-to-fill middle-skills jobs.

San Jacinto College is working with UpSkill Houston, an industry-led workforce development program launched earlier this month by the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) aimed at filling the need for skilled workers in the Gulf Coast region. It is a blue print for leaders across the board – in the business community, at educational institutions, and within social service organizations – to build a quality workforce that meets employers’ needs. The initiative is supported by a $250,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase, the largest ever private-sector effort aimed at addressing the skills gap.    Read more » about San Jacinto College Helping to Fill Skills Gap

Most of us drive by skyscrapers in major cities without ever thinking about how they stand up. In Los Angeles and most other major cities, they have to stand up to the politics, the winds, the storms, the earthquakes, and an occasional change of developer, owner and/or General Contractor, especially in landmark $1 billion projects.

On the new Wilshire Grand Center in LA, almost all of those factors came into play over the years before construction even began. What started with a handshake in true Texas style between two USC graduates is now becoming the tallest tower west of the Mississippi River, but that journey has been quite turbulent at times.

Last week, we posted a commentary on the outstanding writing of Thomas Curwen at the LA Times on the chronology of the Big pour, the record setting 18-foot deep concrete and steel mat placed five stories below street level that will support the new Wilshire Grand Center, scheduled for completion in 2016. Before the old hotel could be torn down and the city block excavated, lots of turbulence had already occurred. Curwen tells several stories in the second article that are intertwined into an interesting plot that made me wonder whether and how the building would come alive. 

The original project, designed by Chris Martin’s firm A.C. Martin, planned to tear down the existing hotel and to build two towers: a hotel and an office tower. The original developer selected by the owner Yang Ho Cho, CEO of KAL, for the project was Thomas Properties.    Read more » about There Is More To The Story Than The Tower

Construction Career Collaborative continues to gain momentum. During the past year, the Board of Directors of C3 approved 52 contractors as Accredited Employers, including nine general contractors and 43 specialty contractors. In addition, eight companies were approved as Project Participants, all of whom are working on the C3 project, Texas Children’s Hospital - The Woodlands. But, we still have much, much more work to do in order to achieve our goal of creating a sustainable workforce for the commercial construction industry. In fact, we have hardly started.

The next step in our growth is to hire an Operations Manager. We are looking for someone with experience in the construction industry that fits the qualifications listed in the job description below. If you, or someone you know, fit these qualifications, please consider this job opportunity.

Position Description for the C3 Operations Manager:
Construction Career Collaborative is an alliance of socially responsible Owners, Contractors and Specialty Contractors whose mission is to positively affect the issues facing the craft worker for the commercial construction industry.    Read more » about Construction Career Collaborative (C3) is Hiring!

PPI falls in 2014; mixed price changes loom; nonresidential construction pay accelerates

Editor’s note: Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

If you have not already, please help AGC craft its 2015 Construction Business Outlook and take this short survey.

The producer price index (PPI) for final demand decreased 0.4%, not seasonally adjusted (-0.3%, seasonally adjusted), in December and increased 1.1% for the year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Thursday. AGC posted an explanation and tables focusing on construction prices and costs. Final demand includes goods, services and five types of nonresidential buildings that BLS says make up 34% of total construction. There are no indexes yet for other building types, or for residential or nonbuilding construction.    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: January 12-16, 2015

The main stream media isn’t well known for covering construction stories, especially in depth, but Thomas Curwen and his colleagues at the LA Times did an outstanding report on the construction of what will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi in the Wilshire Grand Center construction. The five part series written by Curwen augmented by photos from his associates focuses the complexity and challenges during the planning and construction of a major project on a downtown constricted site that are usually not talked about openly in the press or outside of the owner, designers and construction teams.

The first article in the series documents the logistical nightmare that was the largest continuous concrete pour since the 1999 Venetian pour in Las Vegas.    Read more » about Tall Tales of a New Tower

Brent Smith, PhD gave a stimulating presentation titled Managing Talent: Myths and Realities at the 2014 fall conference hosted by Kiley Advisors.  Pat Kiley introduced the Rice University dean and professor with a mention of the companies who have hired Dr. Smith “to help them with talent development and leadership coaching” including ExxonMobil and other companies who are the “who’s who of the energy industry” as well as those from other industries such as Microsoft.

Dr. Smith began his presentation by confessing that his original training was not in business, but that in fact he is a psychologist.  He believes, however, that this training makes him “uniquely qualified to think through this issue of talent, because at the end of the day the factors that are most interesting to companies are the factors that are focused on the psychology related to attracting and retaining the best quality talent in the industry.”   Read more » about Rice University Professor Advises Managers to Reject Common Hiring Myths [VIDEO]

According to an article in DeZeen Magazine, the ten tallest skyscrapers under construction for completion of core and shell in 2015 are located across the globe, but only one of them is in the US – 432 Park Avenue in New York City, which will be “the tallest all-residential building in the world.”

Others of note are the Vostok Tower in Russia, the Shanghai Tower in China, Capital Market Authority Tower in Saudi Arabia, and the Marina 101 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Read the full article to check out the stats, the designers and the engineering marvels that are being used to achieve new heights.    Read more » about The Top 10 Tallest Skyscrapers of 2015

Educators will tell you there was a time, not all that long ago, when folks in higher education had very little interest in working collaboratively to address the workforce needs of businesses in their communities. Those days are over. The needs are so great that there is now a recognition that unprecedented teamwork is necessary for the good of businesses and their potential employees.

That was one of the major takeaways from my visit last week to San Jacinto College in Pasadena, where I talked with Chancellor Brenda Hellyer and Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives Allatia Harris. They were happy to discuss everything from stories of women succeeding in the skilled trades to building specific plans for employers to make sure they’ve got the workforce they require.    Read more » about Educators Say Addressing Workforce Requires a Whole New Mindset [VIDEO]

Jobs added in 2014 are most since 2005; union pay raises inch up; retail metrics improve

Editor’s note: Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

If you have not already, please help AGC craft its 2015 Construction Business Outlook and take this short survey.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 252,000 in December, seasonally adjusted, and by 2,952,000 (2.1%) over 12 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday. Construction employment rose by 48,000 for the month and 290,000 (4.9%) over the year to 6,166,000, the highest total since March 2009 and the largest annual increase since 2005. Residential construction employment (residential building and specialty trade contractors) climbed by 13,500 for the month and 132,100 (6.0%) for the year.    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: January 5-9, 2015

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