A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

This Week's Second Look

These are posts that were published in the past on Construction Citizen and then featured for a second time at a later date in our weekly email newsletter. If you are not receiving our newsletter but would like to, please send your request to newsletter@constructioncitizen.com.

First Wage Theft Complaints Filed Under Houston's New Law

Workers who have been cheated out of their wages by unscrupulous employers in Houston are fighting back now that they have the tools to do so under the city's new wage theft ordinance. The city has received its first official complaints under the new law from some workers who say they were not receiving overtime pay that they are owed.

Via the Houston Chroncle's Lomi Kriel:

“Thirteen workers on Tuesday filed the first complaint under a new Houston ordinance aimed at preventing companies from stealing workers' wages.

“The workers, with the assistance of the nonprofit Faith and Justice Worker Center, filed documents with the city's inspector general alleging that their employer, Bradley Demolition and Construction, refused to pay them overtime. They say the company also failed to provide tax forms.   Read more » about First Wage Theft Complaints Filed Under Houston's New Law


Investing in an Educated Workforce: A Winning Combination

Editor’s note:  The following was written by Saied Alavi, Division Operations Manager at Marek Brothers in Houston.

In my business today, as in the great building traditions of the past, skilled well-trained crafts people are our most important and valuable asset.  From the hundreds who make up our field employees to the estimating and administrative teams who support them, from the youngest trainee and intern to the most senior supervisor – each one is critical to the delivery of our craft at Marek.

On any day, you can pick up the phone and order a hundred new screw guns or chop saws and receive delivery in a day or two.  You can place an order for truckloads of gypsum board or metal studs and receive delivery in a few days.  However, if you need ten experienced drywall or acoustical ceiling mechanics, there is no guarantee that you can find them in a week or even a month.  And finding skilled workers is becoming more of a daily problem as the economy recovers and construction expands again.   Read more » about Investing in an Educated Workforce: A Winning Combination


Interview with Ken Simonson, Chief Economist of AGC America [VIDEO]

I had the opportunity to interview Ken Simonson, one of the most respected economists in the country (and one of Construction Citizen’s leading bloggers) after a recent presentation.  He was in Houston to speak at the Associated General Contractors (AGC) 2014 Annual Chapter Meeting and breakfast.  Ken is traveling around the country (when the weather doesn’t ground him) to deliver his thoughts about the industry and the outlook for 2014.

We have covered his presentation on Construction Citizen, but we wanted to ask him a couple of questions like “What’s happening in this midterm election year that might have an impact on the economy?”   Read more » about Interview with Ken Simonson, Chief Economist of AGC America [VIDEO]


Contractors Create Training Academy to Build Vital Skilled Workforce

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


More Resources May Be Needed For Texas Education Reforms to Work

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


From Boom and Bust to Boom and Stability [VIDEO]

I interviewed Patrick Jankowski, Chief Economist for the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) after a recent AGC Outlook Breakfast in which Jankowski labeled the current cycle as the “New Normal.”  He stated that this cycle is different in that the past cycles have rocketed from Boom to Bust and back again; however, this time is a new cycle where the boom goes to long term stability.  He told us that a job creation rate of 70,000 or so per year would indeed keep the Houston-Galveston economy growing faster than most other metro areas in the United States.

I asked about some of the big issues that the GHP, the region’s largest business organization, was studying.  Those issues include transportation, education and healthcare.   Read more » about From Boom and Bust to Boom and Stability [VIDEO]


Report Says Millennials Seek Modern Work Environment

A research report that was published last month by the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (FWCI) has industry leaders talking about their workforce development programs.  Titled
Attracting Young People into Construction Field Positions, the report focuses on the need for employers to make their workplaces more attractive to the new generation which is now entering the job market.  It resonates with one of the themes we have been reporting for the past three years, as the construction industry approaches a critical shortage of skilled workers.

Steven Etkin, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI), said:

“As the construction industry continues its recovery, competition for new young workers with other industries – construction, agriculture, and oil and gas – is going to intensify.   Read more » about Report Says Millennials Seek Modern Work Environment


The C3 Owner's Dilemma

“It’s a ‘which comes first: the chicken or the egg’ issue.”  That is how Pete Dawson, Senior Vice President of Facilities Services for Texas Children’s Hospital, expressed his thoughts as an owner working to advance the principles of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3).

The dilemma for the owner, according to Mr. Dawson, is accepting the need to pay more now for a skilled workforce that will only be available in the future.  However, most agree that the young men and women who decide to forego college are not likely to choose an industry that might have a job for them, but not a career.

Mr. Dawson said he certainly understands the owner’s concern about higher costs with minimal short-term results.  But he added, “I tell them to think about the cost to your project five to ten years from now due to the low productivity and missed schedules of an untrained workforce.   Read more » about The C3 Owner's Dilemma


Immigration Summit in Houston to Focus on Human Trafficking

An unfortunate reality of the industry we cover is that there are many instances of worker abuse. We have documented much of this on Construction Citizen over the years.  Terrible working conditions, worker misclassification, lack of health insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, denial of overtime pay and other problems honestly keep me up at night.  But, I was only fairly recently alerted to just how prevalent human trafficking is in construction.

Houston is ground zero for human trafficking in the United States and for that reason, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Bridging America Task Force will present its third immigration summit on March 18 at 8 am at Rice University.   Read more » about Immigration Summit in Houston to Focus on Human Trafficking


Construction Jobs Available, Workers Not!

According to Giles Lamberston in a recent post for Construction Equipment Guide, the recent AGC study on workforce studies points to both a short and long term need for more skilled workers.

Lamberston makes a couple of great points that I think are important. He writes, “The larger truth is that until blue-collar labor is accorded the same respect given software work and other white-collar employment, young people will opt for college degrees of increasingly shrinking career value.  There was a time when skilled construction trades men and women were honored for their labor.  Now such positions are considered a last resort or an interim job.  Consequently, many of the ‘best and brightest’ drift into careers and professions that are trendier but, ultimately, less personally rewarding.   Read more » about Construction Jobs Available, Workers Not!