Two weeks ago, ABC Houston’s Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) honored several men and women for their accomplishments and completed training programs at the Class of 2017 CMEF Graduation. This year’s event was held at the Sylvan Beach Pavilion in La Porte, Texas, located southeast of Houston and directly on the shore of Galveston Bay. Business supporters, training staff and instructors, and family and friends of the graduates gathered to celebrate this milestone in the careers of these construction craft professionals.
Warren Adamson of S&B Engineers and Constructors and 2017 ABC/CMEF Chair welcomed everyone with a few remarks and introduced Rick Rankin of Jacobs who offered the invocation. The graduates were then invited to fill their plates at the buffet before the rest of the guests helped themselves.
After dinner and just before the rest of the program got under way, I stepped outside of the noisy hall with three men who were receiving certificates of completion of the CMEF Combo Welding Program. I had hoped to publish here a video of my interview with them, but unfortunately the noise from the stiff ocean breeze all but drowned out the audio on my recording. Therefore, I have transcribed my conversation with Alex Nevels, Josue Giron, and Guillermo Treviño – all of whom work for KBR.
Elizabeth McPherson: All three of you are graduating in Combo Welding? Before you had training from CMEF, were you already welders through some other training?
Guillermo Treviño: We were commercial welders.
EM: How did you hear about CMEF?
TREVIÑO: KBR has a program where our training department develops our people at other schools through the Combo Course.
Alex Nevels: Yes, through the HR Department.
EM: So you had jobs already at KBR, and they sent you for more training.
ALL THREE: Yes ma’am.
EM: What will this Combo Welding Certificate enable you to do different from what you’ve been able to do before?
NEVELS: Hopefully it will open up more opportunities in the future – to keep moving forward and keep progressing.
EM: Did any of you come from families that had a welder in it?
NEVELS: Yes ma’am. Both my dad and my grandpa are welders.
EM: So that was a family tradition. What about you other two?
TREVIÑO: Not me – I am the first one.
EM: How did you get the idea to try to become a welder?
TREVIÑO: Just friends in the industry. They’re always talking about refineries and travelling – (chuckling) and money.
EM: That’s it!
TREVIÑO: That’s what made me look into it. I looked into it, and I have been doing it ever since.
EM: It is definitely a career that you can build a future in.
EM: What would be your goals for the end? How high up in the field would you love to go?
TREVIÑO: Well with welding, there is really no limit. You can do just about anything.
NEVELS: There’s always different metals … [unintelligible behind wind noise]. There is always something more difficult. There’s always things you can do to move up.
EM: More specializations that you can learn.
EM: Well, thank you so much and congratulations on your accomplishment today.
After the graduates were called to sit in the rows of chairs placed directly in front of the stage, the program continued with ABC/CMEF President Russell Hamley recognizing and thanking the industry sponsors of the evening. They were Force Corporation, McCorvey Sheet Metal Works, Performance Contractors, KBR, Jacobs, Turner Industries, Austin Industrial, ISC Constructors LLC, Ref-Chem, and Marek.
Michael Richter, Vice-President of Education and Workforce Development at ABC/CMEF, recognized the Training Units and Instructors. He noted that CMEF now sponsors 12 college campuses and 55 high school campuses. Those programs are in addition to the training provided on the CMEF training facility in La Porte, and the training they provide at the Houston Area Safety Council. He paid a special tribute to William Fuller, Lead Instructor at CMEF, by asking all of the graduates who been taught or assisted in their education by Mr. Fuller to stand. A clear majority of the graduates rose to their feet and applauded their esteemed instructor. Earlier that evening, I had spoken with Fuller, who remarked, “We work hard for many reasons, but this [graduation] is the fruit of our labor.”
The keynote speaker for the evening was Jacob Guzman of KBR. Guzman enlisted in the United States Army right after graduating from high school. During his time in the Army, he served as a combat medic for seven years. He was stationed in Germany, South Korea, San Antonio, North Caroline, and was deployed to Iraq. After his time in the military, he studied to become an RN while teaching anatomy and physiology and emergency medical techniques at the Texas School of Business in Friendswood, Texas. Three years later he entered the construction industry, where he worked his way up from scaffold builder/helper to pipe general foreman. Guzman now works at KBR as a Veteran Pipefitting Program Instructor at Central Louisiana Technical Community College near Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Some of the remarks in Guzman’s inspiring 25-minute address included:
“As part of KBR’s Workforce Development Program, we truly believe in training. We understand that in order to have people do a job to a particular standard, we need to ensure that they know what and how to complete that task. Before you began your academic journey, you may have had some ideas about how to do things – how things work out, but now – after training – you know exactly what to do.
“Training should never stop; your growing should never stop.”
“We are a people-focused industry, because truly people are your greatest resource. You will be remembered by your character. Whether you are lazy, whether you are hard-working, a complainer or a ‘just get it done’ type, the guy who was in the restroom too long or the one who takes too long going to the tool room – people remember your work ethic and especially your integrity. It will make or break your future.”
“In this industry, everyone knows everyone. Just say ‘no.’ Do the right thing; have that integrity; have some personal courage.”
“Make safety personal to YOU!”
“This is your time. This is the moment where you go out there, and you build it. This country needs construction professionals like you. America needs dedicated individuals that stand ready to guard her workforce, to develop her workforce, and to lead her workforce into the new industrial revolution – a revolution with excellence in safety in mind, excellence in quality, excellence in production.”
Michael Richter returned to the microphone to announce the drawing winners for the coveted door prizes generously donated by Jacobs, DeWalt, Milwaukee Tools, and Proto for the graduates.
Blair Williamson, CMEF Director of Training and Development, spoke about the Construction Careers Youth Committee, the Industrial Contractor Committee, the Industrial Training Committee, a subcommittee of the ITC called the Veteran’s Subcommittee, and the subcommittee of the ITC who had planned the graduation event that evening. He recognized and thanked all of these committee members and their efforts to improve workforce training for the construction industry.
Williamson also highlighted the CMEF participation and success in the 2017 National Craft Championships in March, passing out several awards to commemorate all of the hard work that had been done to achieve those successes. CMEF trained medal winners in the event were once again honored.
Finally, the portion of the evening that everyone had been waiting for arrived: the presentation of the certificates to the graduates. Sal Mellado of Force Corporation read each graduate’s name as each crossed the stage and received congratulations from Mike Holland of Marek (2016 ABC/CMEF Chair), Warren Adamson (2017 ABC/CMEF Chair), and Michael Richter.
Adamson closed the evening with final congratulations and thanks to all.