If one thing is for certain, the Construction Career Collaborative (C3) and its message continue to resonate throughout the commercial building industry. That is not only my opinion, but the consensus opinion of the panelists and attendees following the inaugural C3 Town Hall meetings. These meetings, held June 30th and July 7th at the offices of the ABC and the AGC, respectively, addressed questions, misconceptions, challenges and successes of the industry-wide workforce effort.
The candid conversations included the all too familiar refrains of “making a career in construction attractive again”; “eliminating improper employment practices”; and “the need to reintroduce craft training in all areas of construction”. The majority, if not all, of the attendees, readily understand what the issues are. They also agree that this effort, led by C3 and supported by companies committed to construction careers, can begin to reshape our industry.
However, the theme that seemed to resonate the most with those in attendance was a point made by Pete Dawson (Texas Children’s Hospital), and supported by Spencer Moore (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Texas), that owners are looking for value, not just low price. Dawson and Moore both emphasized that they are serial builders who are interested most in the quality of the buildings constructed for them because they know that a high-quality building will have lower maintenance costs and a longer life. This philosophy seemed to surprise some specialty contractors who expressed the sentiment that they believed that owners were only interested in the lowest bid.
This theme of value also ties to comments made by both Kevin Camarata (Camarata Masonry Systems) and Steve Mechler (Balfour Beatty Construction) that the construction industry must be better stewards of the crafts as a career. Camarata spoke of the need to “recapture the trades as a proud profession”. In fact, Camarata made the comment that the construction industry as a whole has been “poor stewards of the profession which we inherited”.
Mechler spoke of growing up in a middle-class family in San Antonio where his dad was a plumber. He pointed out that the standard of living has eroded significantly over the past 30 years for craft professionals like his father, making it difficult for families to maintain a middle-class lifestyle today. Mechler emphasized that the construction industry must do more to elevate the standard of living of its craft workers if it expects to attract people to the craft workforce.
These first two town hall meetings were so well received that C3 will begin hosting them on a monthly basis, typically on the second Wednesday evening of each month from 4:00-6:00. In addition to meetings for specialty contractors, C3 is also planning to have them for general contractors and owners as well. Please look for more information to follow regarding the location and audience for each meeting.
Finally, I would like to thank our four panelists who have freely given of their time to help spread the C3 message. In addition to Pete Dawson, Spencer Moore, Kevin Camarata and Steve Mechler, I would also like to thank C3 board chairman, Jim Stevenson, who served as moderator. Thank you also to all of you who took the time to be a part of the town halls.