Construction is a large and complex worldwide industry constantly shaped by new information technologies, advanced materials, environmental policies, regulations and changing building methods. Most importantly, though, construction is shaped by people. Sustaining a strong industry requires attracting and valuing a skilled, career-driven, high quality workforce... who also like to build! How is the construction industry attracting the skilled workforce for future growth market demands? Do prospective candidates see construction as a viable career choice?

The following is excerpted from an article by Ulf Wolf which was originally published in Construction Dimensions, a monthly publication by the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.  Reprinted with permission.

You find yourself underbid by 30 percent.

The contractor in question swears on a stack of Bibles that all of his labor is legal and documented and that he, as required by law, pays payroll tax and workers’ comp for all of his crew just like everybody else (all the while his nose grows faster and longer than Pinocchio’s ever did).

Meanwhile, the general contractor has a complicated job to get done and may be unaware of any violations on his job site (or he may look the other way) while the owner – well, the owner doesn’t really want to be bothered with “details.”   Read more » about Immigration Reform and the Shadow Economy

As we've written numerous times, a primary way to deter cheating in the labor market in construction is for the hammer to be dropped on companies that don't follow the law.  All too often, ethical contractors that properly classify their workers as employees are bidding against companies that can offer customers a lower price because they're paying people as “independent contractors” or, in an interesting twist, as “member/owners.”  This misclassification gives cheaters a competitive advantage that they should be punished for, plain and simple.

That was the case with an Arizona company that was on the hook earlier this year for $600,000.  The National Roofing Contractors Association reported the case on the group's website:   Read more » about Arizona Company Shells Out Over a Half Million For Misclassification

The labor shortage in construction is no myth. Here in Texas, amidst the immigration debate, we’ve heard from business leaders who tell us that it now takes about four weeks in Houston to frame up a house and homes built in Dallas take about six months to complete.  Over at Business Insider, reporter Mamta Badkar reminds us that America-born construction workers are simply vanishing:

“The reasons are varied. Many of these unemployed construction workers went to other sectors like manufacturing. Many found themselves moving to the oil and gas states where the energy industry has been booming. At least some have just left the labor force.   Read more » about Competition For Labor Heats Up

At an early age, young children, especially boys, are given all sorts of construction toys. These toys spark creativity and allow our kids the opportunity to use their imagination. They develop concepts such as structural design and receive an early introduction into math, physics, mechanics, and engineering – all of which are turned into fun learning adventures. Cartoon programs with names such Handy Manny and Bob the Builder have become popular and appeal to children’s imaginative personalities. My own son even runs around with a hardhat and tool belt fixing things that don’t really need to be fixed.

If construction is considered to be a great early learning experience, why is it not an acceptable career option for an adult?

Most parents who once supported their child’s curiosity for construction are the first to say it is not a career option. These parents are not knowledgeable about the opportunities that exist for their children or the money that can be made working in the field.   Read more » about When Did It Become Socially Unacceptable to Obtain a Career in Construction?

The following article originally appeared in the July newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

This is the period we have been waiting for!  From every indication, and from many different sources, the next several years should see a robust construction market in all major sectors (commercial, industrial, residential and civil) and in all segments (e.g. office, medical, educational, retail, light industrial, etc.).  Companies that think and act strategically will use these coming years and this abundant market to build a stronger foundation so that they will add additional generations to their company’s future.  Those that think only opportunistically, will make money, but struggle again as soon as the cycle turns.   Read more » about The Most Strategic Word For Today’s Times: “No”

The Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) became effective on September 1, 2013.  Texas was the 48th state to adopt a version of the model Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Texas businesses should welcome the consistency offered by TUTSA, since it brings our law in line with that of most other states (the exceptions are New York and Massachusetts).

The statute defines “trade secret” as: “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process, financial data, or list of actual or potential customers or suppliers, that:

(A) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and   Read more » about Trade Secret Protection: New Law, Practical Issues

This past week, the Austin Chapter AGC Safety Committee visited with Marco Ramos, who was recently hired to enforce the City of Austin's rest break ordinance for construction workers.  Ramos discussed his new compliance role and said he proactively visits sites and also responds to complaints lodged via the City's 311 phone system.  Typically, the first thing he looks for on site is the required signage to be posted per the ordinance.  He also talks with workers about rest breaks and water availability.  He can issue citations for failure to post signage or allow breaks.  Ramos said there is good news in that he is seeing 90% and higher compliance thus far on Austin's commercial jobsites.

Since enactment of the rest break ordinance in 2010, the Austin AGC has consistently expressed concerns about the challenges of enforcement, however well-intentioned the ordinance may be.  The Austin AGC obviously and strongly supports rest breaks for workers, particularly in the extreme heat,   Read more » about AGC Safety Committee Visits with Austin City Rest Break Compliance Inspector

The Austin School Board recently voted to adopt Davis-Bacon federal wage rates on construction of facilities under the district's new $490 million bond package.  While some have hailed this as a historic step, it is seen by many as merely a short-term fix for attracting workers into the skilled trades.  In short: more needs to be done.

After a hot debate, the board narrowly voted 5 to 4 to adopt Davis-Bacon wage rates. The crowd in the board room erupted into applause.  It's good news for some, but not for all.  As public radio in Austin pointed out, pay will go up for those in trades like electricians and security technicians, but others like general laborers will actually see their wages go down to the point where they will be earning less than $8 an hour.

Trustee Cheryl Bradley joined with three others in voting against Davis-Bacon wage rates, arguing that it made no sense.  “You’re not going to be buying food for your family on $7.75 an hour,” Bradley said.  “You’re not going to be paying rent.  You will be on government subsidy.”   Read more » about Austin School District Should Follow Houston ISD’s Progress on Construction Jobs

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