Last month Cornerstone, the quarterly magazine of American General Contractors Houston (AGC), published an article about the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), the initiative advanced by socially responsible owners, contractors and specialty contractors in the Houston area to improve the commercial construction industry by embracing principles that will lead to a sustainable craft workforce. Titled Building a Viable Career Path: C3 Brings Owners and Contractors Together in Favor of Training, Fair Wages, and High-Quality Craft Workers, the article offers a comprehensive view of C3 from its task force origin two years ago through its development and promotion to its current position preparing to launch with a few “beta” projects.
It started with industry leaders who realized that the skilled workforce had steadily decreased over the past several years, and unless changes were implemented, the commercial construction industry would soon face a significant shortage of the skilled craft workers needed. The article states:
“Everyone agreed that if the construction industry was serious about confronting the workforce shortage, two key things needed to happen: employers needed to offer a competitive wage and benefits, and workers needed access to craft and safety training. In an industry accustomed to cutting costs, everyone also agreed there was only one way to make sure that these things happened: owners had to create the demand. This initiative – owner-mandated fair pay, benefits, and craft and safety training – became C3.”
Jim Stevenson, CEO of Bellows Construction and Chairman of AGC Houston, explains why owners will benefit from C3 as much as the workers and contractors:
“If you look at the life cycle of a building, the actual construction cost is only about 10 percent of what the building will ultimately cost. If you look at it that way, C3 isn’t really costing you anything. You get a better-built building and fewer problems. You pay more up front, but you don’t end up dealing with nearly as many maintenance and quality issues.”
Jerry Nevlud, President and CEO of AGC Houston, explains how C3 will work with owners participation:
“Owners will basically say, ‘This is a C3 project and everyone on the project must be C3 compliant.’ Each craft worker would have OSHA 10-hour training, and each supervisor would have 30-hour training. Contractors who bid on a C3 job will need to make sure they’re compliant within a certain amount of time.”
Pete Dawson, senior vice president for facilities services at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH), spoke about the reasons an owner might choose to participate in C3, particularly in cases where quality and safety are vitally important to the owner:
“If this program can create some sort of compensation and training program that attracts and retains people so they’re available when an owner like TCH needs them, that’s important. A workforce made up of people who have chosen construction as a career is good. If it costs a little more to have that workforce in place, that’s a good investment for us. We never close down. We’re occupied 24/7. There’s never a good time to come back and redo something. It costs a lot more if we run into problems that are caused by a workforce that is not as competent or qualified.”
Owners can choose to participate in the C3 program at one of three levels, depending on what they are able to commit to at the time they begin a project. At the simplest level, a C3 “Competent” Partner would agree to pay all craft workers by the hour and with overtime for weekly hours worked over 40, to pay unemployment taxes, to provide workers’ compensation insurance, to contribute to social security on behalf of the workers, to ensure that all craft workers have OSHA 10-hour training, and to ensure that all on-site supervisors have an OSHA 30-hour card. In addition to providing the above, owners could participate as “Qualified” or even “Skilled” partners by providing additional benefits such as providing workers with safety training and health insurance benefits.
When owners, contractors, specialty contractors and craft workers work together with an agree-upon set of standards for the workers’ wage, benefits and training, the state of the industry, as summed up by the Cornerstone article, becomes a “win-win for everyone involved”. You can learn more by reading the entire article, or by visiting the Construction Career Collaborative website.