Our friends at FMI, specifically Dustin Bass, Director, and Sabine Hoover, Content Director, recently published a great piece in their quarterly report titled, Texas Does It Right – Workforce Development Initiatives, in which they interview several construction leaders in the Houston area about the need for additional skilled craft workers for future projects and outlining programs that are working to help meet that need.
The lead paragraph lays the groundwork for the article:
A major concern for engineering and construction (E&C) firms across the U.S., the skilled labor shortage, has employers struggling to staff their projects. “If the economy stays strong and there’s continued investment in infrastructure, I don’t see the shortage going away,” Sue Klawans of the Gilbane Building Company told Construction Dive.
While the industry is working at a frenetic pace as construction rebounds from the recession when large numbers of construction workers found other work or left the industry entirely, the emphasis on the training programs for skilled craft workers is just now emerging in many companies.
The FMI report documents three organizations that Bass believes are “Doing it Right.” First, the Economic Alliance was started in 2014 with the mission to make the Houston Region the most competitive in the nation. Chad Burke, the CEO of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region told FMI that the Alliance began “working with partner organizations to educate, train and employ recent high school graduates." Those efforts were aimed at attracting new workers to the Petrochem industry in the Gulf Coast.
According to Burke, the Alliance has begun engaging eighth graders in Texas who are required to select an educational track. The Alliance marketing efforts will expose students to the construction industry and to develop a “pipeline” of new workers for the future.
Bass interviewed Jerry Nevlud, CEO of AGC Houston who described the efforts of the Construction Career Collaborative or C3, a not-for–profit formed seven years ago to focus on the creation of a skilled workforce who were salaried employees, not independent contractors. This workforce would have benefits and both safety and craft training. By forming an alliance of owners, contractors, specialty contractors and industry associations, C3 has become a driving force in the Construction industry in the Houston Region.
FMI interviewed the current Chairman of C3, Jim Stevenson, who laid out the C3 mission. Stevenson, with McCarthy Building Systems, explained that C3 developed three pillars that would change the way that construction was being done. Those three pillars included common safety training, a fair wage and benefits for the workers and a program for starting craft training based on specific crafts.
There is one important factor that will make the effort successful. That factor determined early in the C3 effort was, according to Stevenson, “So from day one, we started with C3 as an owner-driven solution.” The owners, not the contractors had to drive the C3 process for their projects.
These efforts, according to the FMI article, will develop a credentialed skilled workforce with credentials that are mobile with the worker. He said that, “We’re really focused on trying to increase the quality of the craft workers that we have,” he concludes, “and then credential them so that when we have the lulls, they still have the opportunity to find work elsewhere because they can take those credentials with them.”
These efforts are attempting to attract students into the industry as a career and to educate them earlier as well as to create a sustainable skilled craft workforce for the future that can meet the growing industry in the Houston Gulf region.