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?

Safety is critical on every construction site.  It matters every minute of every day and not just during the safety talk, incident review, OSHA audit or client incident report.

According to ENR, 31 major contractors are launching the first annual “Safety Week” May 4-10 to bring additional attention to the issue on a nationwide basis.  These contractors are asking other firms to join in to raise the safety consciousness of every worker on every construction site.

From the ENR article, the organizers “belong to either the Construction Industry Safety Initiative or the Injury Free Executive Forum.  The companies in the groups can be fierce competitors, but they also meet regularly and exchange ideas about safety.   Read more » about Safety Matters Every Minute of Every Day!

Some lawmakers raised questions this week about whether school districts around Texas have the kind of resources they'll need to fully implement sweeping education reforms signed into law last year.  Starting this fall, students will have several new options for which path they'd like to take to earn a high school diploma.  But whether those kids and their parents will receive adequate guidance up front about their choices has become a point of contention.

The flexibility in graduation plans was part of a broader education reform package that got a “yes” vote from all of the 181 members of the Texas Legislature.   Read more » about More Resources May Be Needed For Texas Education Reforms to Work

The following was originally published in Cornerstone, the quarterly magazine of AGC Houston.  Reprinted with permission.

In a year when most professional sports fans in Houston have not had much to cheer about, there was a brief shining moment for Astros fans earlier this year.  No, I am not referring to the fact that they own the number one pick in the draft for the second year in a row.

In January Craig Biggio, a Houston Astro from rookie to retirement, was expected to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  It was his second year in the voting, and his statistics shouted, “Hall of Famer”.  Only it did not happen.  He missed by two votes.  Unfortunately for Biggio, his baseball career spanned what has become known as the steroid era.

Biggio has never been accused of nor has it ever even been suggested that he used steroids.  But, the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) by a litany of major league stars has tainted everyone and everything associated with Major League Baseball from the late 1980’s to 2010.  Many good players became tangled in the mess created by a significant few.

This got me thinking that maybe our industry has its own PED problem.  I’m not talking about contractors on steroids or any other illegal substance.  I am referring to a different PED – let’s call it proposal enhancing decisions.   Read more » about Construction’s “PED” Problem

I created the Mobilization 2 Completion initiative as a means to address the growing need for a sustainable skilled construction workforce.  Research has shown that the construction industry will face workforce shortages which will increase cost of delivery and time to completion.  In addition, the negative image of the construction industry needs to be studied and strategies formulated to increase the number of students enrolled in construction education.

Currently the Mobilization 2 Completion initiative has been working on three areas of research made possible through a grant awarded by Marek Brothers Systems.  The grant is dedicated to increasing recruitment and retention of potential workforce through construction education and awareness.  The three areas of research are focused on

  1. High School Juniors’ perceptions of a construction career
  2. Factors of recruitment and retention of Skilled Trades construction education students

  Read more » about Mobilization 2 Completion

First 15 students complete four-year apprenticeship program in sheet metal

On January 16, fourteen men and one woman were celebrated by their friends, families, instructors, and employers for becoming the first graduates of a four-year apprenticeship program offered by the Houston Area Mechanical Contractor Training Academy (HAMCTA).  HAMCTA, also known as “the Academy”, came to exist through the vision, collaboration, and sacrifice of several mechanical contractors who found a creative way to develop the skilled workforce which is needed in their industry.

The idea for the Academy began a few years ago when several mechanical contractors in the Houston area were each experiencing the same frustration with finding skilled workers to hire.  They wanted to establish a program which would provide training with certification and also allow the contractors who had provided the training to retain those workers after they became qualified.   Read more » about Contractors Create Training Academy to Build Vital Skilled Workforce

While some believe education reforms passed by the Texas Legislature last year offer the right alternatives for students who may want to go to college or immediately enter a career, there are others who will push to make changes as soon as possible.  They'll get their chance over the next few weeks.  The Texas House and Senate have scheduled separate hearings for later this month and in April to take testimony on implementation of the sweeping education reforms that were signed into law by Governor Rick Perry under House Bill 5.

As we've told you, this is a bit of a “fight within the family” because the business community is not of one mind on this issue.  There are those who think the changes went much too far and relaxed standards in a way that will be detrimental to students and the future workforce.  Others, specifically those in the construction industry and other fields that need skilled workers, say students will now be afforded a broad range of options that will be mutually beneficial to those students as well as their future employers.   Read more » about Fight Over Education Reforms in Texas to Start Anew

Successful construction CEO’s and senior leadership teams are constantly striving to take their companies to “the next level.”  The best teams have a clear vision of what that next level is, often expressed in terms of specific measureable, time-dated goals.  Some even set “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”, BHAGs, as articulated by Jim Collins in his seminal work, Built to Last.  Typically these BHAGs are set for a longer horizon, perhaps three to five years out, and require bold strategies that involve significant organizational development and change to achieve.  The achievement of these certainly takes the organization to “the next level”, perhaps even transforming the company.

In a cyclical industry like commercial construction, a critical requirement for setting growth goals is favorable market direction and dynamics.  It is difficult to grow a construction company serving a single geographic market that has negative direction.  However, with the market direction and dynamics we face in Houston for the foreseeable three to five years,   Read more » about “The Next Level” – This Market Should Deliver It

The Texas Payday Law, Chapter 61 of the Texas Labor Code, governs how workers are paid in Texas.  The law applies to all private employers, and is enforced by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Payment of Wages:

Wages must be paid at least twice per month to employees who are non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (i.e. those employees who are eligible for overtime pay).  Exempt-level employees must be paid at least once per month.

Deductions from Pay:

An employer can deduct money from an employee’s paycheck under very limited circumstances.  The law requires that certain deductions be made, such as withholding for taxes, or for court-ordered child support.  Otherwise deductions cannot be made without a written authorization signed by the employee.

For example, if the cost of uniforms is to be deducted from an employee’s wages, the employee needs to sign a specific written authorization.  Otherwise the deduction violates state law.   Read more » about Helpful Hints about the Texas Payday Law