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?

Recently, I described the reasoning behind the creation of Construction Career Collaborative (C3) and attributed it to the fact that the construction industry has an unsustainable workforce.  In that essay, I listed five different but related reasons how we got “into this mess.”  Among those are a misclassification of craft workers as subcontractors, a movement away from craft training and safety training, a de emphasis of vocational education in our high schools in an effort to prepare all students for college, a perception among young people that the construction industry is dirty and unsafe, and a flood of undocumented workers who work in the shadows with no recourse to address wage abuse resulting in downward pressure on wages.  All of these reasons contribute to why young people are not attracted to an industry that formerly provided an excellent path to a middle class living.

So one might ask, “What is the solution to this problem?”  For starters, the commercial construction industry must cease business practices that make it unattractive to prospective workforce candidates such as misclassification of its workers as contract employees.  To be blunt, who wants to work in an industry that does not pay matching social security taxes, federal and state unemployment taxes, provide workers compensation insurance, or any form of employee benefits?   Read more » about The Path Forward to a Sustainable Workforce

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to members of the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees about the Construction Career Collaborative (C3).  As a journalist who's covered the program’s development in Houston, I felt the board should at least know about it as they consider how to improve the lives of the workers on AISD construction projects.

I have a son in the Austin school district.  He’s 15 and at that age when a young man tries to figure out what he’s going to do with his life.  He may go to college and pursue a four-year degree or he may decide he’d rather do something in the skilled trades.  I will be proud of him no matter what.   Read more » about Austin School Board Hears about the Construction Career Collaborative

This week of June 2-6 has been designated National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down week by OSHA to help prevent injuries and deaths due to falls on the job.

According to the Department of Labor blog site and OSHA statistics, there were 806 lives lost in construction in 2012 and 300 of them were due to falls on the job.

The current plan is for as many as 25,000 businesses to host “stand-downs” and educational events for over 1 million workers.  These events and the safety standards taught in the “stand-downs” will definitely save workers lives across the entire country.  During the “stand-down” on the construction sites, the companies will describe fall hazards and show ways to prevent those reportable falls on the job sites.

Please urge your companies and your team members to participate in this important OSHA event.  It could save your life.   Read more » about National Safety Stand-Down

Once when I was a kid, my parents had a truckload of dirt dumped onto our driveway.  Their intent, and the eventual result, was that the dirt was to be used to level the low spots in our lawn.  However, the immediate response to that glorious pile of dirt was that for a few weeks it became the greatest kid hangout on our block.  The neighborhood kids brought over their toy cars and trucks (both Matchbox and Tonka), and together we built the most amazing “city” complete with roads, tunnels, and bridges.

Now lucky kids and their parents will be able to drive and to dig with actual construction equipment at the first construction-themed amusement park to open in the United States.  Diggerland USA is scheduled to open on Saturday, June 14 in the township of West Berlin, New Jersey, just a short drive from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   Read more » about Diggerland USA Lets Kids Play on Real Construction Equipment

Summer has arrived, and enthusiastic high school and college students are looking for summer internships.

Internships are not a problem if you are paying interns at least minimum wage, and are paying overtime hours (any hours worked over 40 in a work week) at one and one-half times their regular wage rate.

If you are considering unpaid internships, however, you may be exposing your company to a lawsuit.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if you allow a person to perform services for you, in most instances that person must be paid and will be subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.  There is a narrow exception for true unpaid internships, which must meet the following six criteria:   Read more » about Beware of Unpaid Internships

Memorial Day prompts reflection and appropriately so. We must never forget all of those who gave their lives for our freedom, whether in the two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf or in the fighting that continues today. To paraphrase, Winston Churchill, “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.”

This day also prompts homage to those who returned, those heroes who then turned their talents and patriotism to making this country the great nation that it is. One group that deserves our continuous study and emulation is the veterans of World War II, that special group of men and women heralded in Tom Brokaw’s marvelous book, The Greatest Generation. Brokaw wrote this book as a tribute to his father and his buddies, all World War II vets. It is a compelling story, which every American can benefit from reading. He eloquently conveys how this group came back, and although they were owed so much, they never wanted to do anything but continue to serve and give in their companies, their communities and their country. The leaders, both officers and enlisted, went on to start and head companies, to build America into a great industrial economy, while at the same time ensuring that the men and women who had served and supported them in wartime had decent jobs in peacetime, jobs that could allow them to feed their families and realize the American Dream.   Read more » about Lessons from the Greatest Generation: They are so Relevant Today

Earlier this spring I attended an open house at the new Performance Verification Center in La Porte, Texas.  The Center has been created by ABC Houston and the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) to provide hands-on evaluation of craft performance skills by certified Performance Evaluators as part of the accreditation process of students and trainees.

Glen O’Mary, Director of Education for the ABC/CMEF Performance Verification Center, joined the staff this February, but has been working in the construction and maintenance industry for 14 years, so he knows many of the people associated with this organization.  He is excited to be a part of CMEF, which you can hear in the following 3-minute video interview.  He says,

“We need a trained and competent workforce.  Everybody here is willing to get their hands dirty – literally – to support the cause and do this.  We are providing a future for families and giving somebody a chance at a life that they may not have had an opportunity to have in the past.  Why I am so close to this is it is helping people change their lives – to become something better.  That’s why my heart is in it so much.”   Read more » about Video Interviews with Some of the Instructors and Staff at the CMEF Performance Verification Center

The Associated General Contractors of America is working through its local chapters to find ways to address the catch-22 of older workers retiring while fewer graduating students are entering the industry.  AGC is starting chartered schools to teach interested kids about the construction industry.

They have partnered to establish charter schools such as the ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico; OBC Academy for Architecture, Construction and Engineering in Portland, Oregon; Construction Careers Center in St. Louis, Missouri; and Academy of Career Education in Sparks, Nevada.

Recently, AGC economist Ken Simonson spoke to the Denver Chapter of AGC.  In pointing out the looming shortages, he pointed to the recently published AGC report Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: a Workforce Development Plan for the 21st Century.  The plan outlines what federal, state and local officials can do to create construction training programs and fill the pipeline for jobs.

An article in the Denver Business Journal by Cathy Proctor outlines some key points from the AGC report:   Read more » about Solving the Skilled Worker Shortage in Construction