A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Building a Sustainable Workforce for Today and Tomorrow

We attended a graduation dinner last week that was unique in its attendees and outstanding for the folks who participated or coached in a year-long workforce development program.  The program is focused on creating the next generation of workforce for the company and for the industry.

One of our sponsors, Marek Brothers Systems, a specialty subcontractor headquartered in Houston, hosted the dinner to recognize the graduates of the Workforce Development Program (WFD) and their spouses.  Marek invited several owners, contractors, specialty subs and AGC Houston to witness the progress that these craftspeople of tomorrow have made over the last year.  This year 17 individuals were coached through a structured program that better prepared them for their work on the job site.  The course work included safety, power tool usage, blueprint reading, and construction math.  Their coaches worked side by side with the helpers to teach them the skills that they need to be productive craftspeople and potentially the foreman of the next ten years and beyond.

Peter Dawson, Senior Vice President of Facilities Services at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) and a former classmate of mine in architectural school, delivered the keynote.  TCH is an early adopter of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3) program for the development of a sustainable construction workforce, and has one of the beta projects where the C3 principles are being implemented.

Dawson made several strong points about the construction in the TCH system, talking about how the modern hospital is never complete.  He said that because of medical advances and standards of care, sometimes the renovations begin shortly after the original building is completed.  He spoke about how TCH and other institutions in the Texas Medical Center are practicing Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and how he brings the architects, engineers and contractors together at the same time to ensure that the project progresses smoothly from concept through completion.  He stressed the critical need for a skilled workforce that can complete the work safely, on time the first time, and be available over the long-term for the changes and renovations.

His point that the relationship shift from an adversarial relationship between the parties on the projects to a collaborative one has surprised a number of architects, contractors and subs – some of whom are struggling to meet the demands of the new systems of delivery.

Perhaps one of the most striking parts of the evening was when three young men were recognized for receiving their GED (General Educational Development) certificates through Houston Community College while working full time on the job.  That personal initiative will enable each of them to move into the next level of the WFD at Marek and perhaps be recognized next year as graduates of the program.

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