A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

2018 CMEF Construction Careers Exposition Invites Houston Students to Explore Careers in Construction [VIDEO]

Last month, ABC Houston’s educational affiliate Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) hosted their annual Construction Careers Exposition for high school students at the Pasadena Municipal Fair Grounds.  There were 387 students with 48 chaperones, 180 volunteers representing 34 organizations, and 7 visitors in attendance.  The event included 20 Career Information Booths and 22 Hands-On Activities facilitated by volunteers.

During a break between rounds of students visiting each station, I talked with Carlos Estrada and Cesar Bustos, two members of the team from Karsten Interior Services who were running the hands-on drywall hanging clinic.  Estrada, safety director for Karsten, said that just because you start at the entry-level position, it doesn’t mean you will stay at that level.  “This is just a starting point for a bigger career where you can eventually become an estimator, a project manager, a superintendent, or a safety director such as myself – and we all started from the bottom.”  He said that he has been able to use the things he learned in his construction career outside of his work.  He said “Our houses are made out of sheetrock.  You can patch and repair your own house.  So, whatever you learn here, you can take home with you and apply it on a daily basis.”  Cesar Bustos started working in commercial construction just after graduating from high school 22 years ago.  He said he loves working in construction, and it has helped him throughout his life.  Through his job he learned skills that enabled him to work on his own home and help others as well.  “I wasn’t satisfied just learning one trade, I wanted to learn how to paint, how to frame, how to do ceilings.”  He said that Karsten gave him the opportunity to learn all of these and other skills.

Estrada and Bustos talked about the importance of jobsite assessment, which includes not only being aware of what safety issues relate to the task you are performing, but also being aware of what others around you are doing.  Bustos remarked that he might be working safely, but another team’s unsafe action could affect his team.  Estrada said that in the construction industry, teams are encouraged to speak up if they notice any unsafe behaviors, even if they occur in a different trade on a different team.  Bustos: “You try to help that other guy out before he gets hurt or before any of our guys get hurt.”

I also talked with Enrique Rodriguez and Stephen Bryant of Brown & Root Industrial Services, LLC, who were conducting a pipe bending and electrical instrumentation demonstration.  They were introducing the high school students to what they could look forward to if they chose to become electricians.  They talked about the construction environment and safety.  Rodriguez, who has been working in the industry for 12 years and is currently an estimator/coordinator for Brown & Root, said that to become an electrician, a student would start with an apprentice program.  Rodrigues said that it is important to ask questions as you learn your trade.  “That’s how I worked my way up: learning, asking questions, understanding your work.”

Bryant started working for Brown & Root in a different trade nine years ago, but has been an electrician for the past four years.  He said that construction is a learning experience and a growing industry.  He said that there are many career paths that stem from the electrical/instrumentation craft.

I also visited with Aurelio Flores of MAREK, who had brought a team from MAREK who had recently completed the basic training in MAREK’s workforce development program.  These relatively new construction workers were teaching the high school students how to use a screw gun – giving the MAREK trainees an opportunity to practice mentoring!

Student surveys revealed that 100% of the students indicated that the event was fun and informative, 99% indicated the event was Helpful or Extremely Helpful in influencing their future career decision, and 63% indicated they planned to choose a career in the Construction Industry with 36% indicating they were undecided.  When asked to mark one favorite event, all 22 activities received votes.

Steven F. Horton, Ed.D., CMEF’s Director of Schools Training Division, said “The Steering Committee expresses their appreciation to all participating companies and volunteers and a special note of appreciation for City of Pasadena Mayor, Jeff Wagner, for starting the Exposition with a Pledge to the Flag, a Prayer, and some words of encouragement to the students.”

The Construction Careers Expo is an annual event which draws a diverse group of students from around the Greater Houston area who exhibit an interest in construction as their future career path, and is made possible with the support of volunteers and contributions.  You can watch some of my interviews in the 3-minute video below.