A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

CMEF Graduates their Class of 2016

Educators, industry representatives, family, and friends of the CMEF class of 2016 gathered last Thursday evening to celebrate the achievements of this graduating class of construction craft professionals.  The Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) hosted the event for those of us who braved the local thunderstorms at a unique event hall nestled between branches of the Buffalo Bayou on the southeast side of Houston called Brady’s Landing.

After a brief introduction by Mike Holland, CMEF Board of Directors Chair and Marek Houston Division President, the evening began with a stirring presentation of the United States Colors by the Deer Park High School JROTC (Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps).  Following the United States Pledge of Allegiance, the room bowed their heads during an invocation delivered by Rick Rankin, an industry representative from Jacobs.

We were then invited to fill our dinner plates at the ample buffet, allowing the CMEF graduates and the National Craft Championship competitors in attendance to precede us.

Russell Hamley, ABC/CMEF President, then recognized the sponsors of the evening’s festivities, including the host sponsor CMEF, the training affiliate of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Greater Houston.

Next, Michael Richter, ABC/CMEF VP of Education and Workforce Development, asked all “instructors and school representatives” to stand up and be recognized.  He then introduced the evening’s guest speaker: James Kidd, a site manager for Turner Industries, where he has been an employee for the past 16 years.  Richter said of Kidd:

“Prior to working for Turner as a construction superintendent, James served in the U.S. Navy as a flight deck fueler and supervisor where he was first introduced to piping and piping systems repair.  His experience with the U.S. Navy greatly contributed to his start as a pipefitter.  James eventually moved up the ladder to his position as a supervisor. … I am very proud to introduce our speaker of the evening, as he is a testimony as to what this industry incorporates.  Mr. James Kidd.”

Kidd first congratulated the graduates, saying this is “the first step to becoming craftsmen and journeymen.”  He talked about his career path from his beginnings in the Navy to his learning other skills as he had opportunities.  “I can tell you, with a little determination and the right attitude, you can do the same as I have done.  I progressed mostly because of being ‘multi-craft’.  Back when I was a craftsman, ABC/CMEF was not as well promoted as it is today, and so [we] were heavily dependent on the knowledge of other craftsmen out in the field.  Now with ABC training and CMEF, the right training is available to you, so that you can have the confidence to take your NCCER test.”

A holder of multiple NCCER craft and leadership certifications, Kidd encouraged the graduates to “not stop here,” and to continue their educations and qualifications.  He advised that attitude was important to each graduate’s career.  He said, “With the right attitude and determination, you can reach your goals, and help make yourself more forceful, more ideal for your employers.”  Kidd continued to talk about attitude as he compared workplace situations that each graduate had probably already encountered in the workplace where someone’s attitude regarding safety or supervision or perhaps just the job itself brought the whole group’s attitude down.  Kidd:

“I want to encourage you not to listen to those negative people, and to stay on your own path.  The fact that you had the determination to educate yourself in a craft, shows that you are already a spot above the rest. Following a negative attitude, only breeds more negativity.  It could cause you to veer from your path that you have worked so hard for.”

Kidd then recited a quote from pastor, author, educator, and radio persona Charles Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Kidd went on to advise that “The most valuable thing you can have in this industry is your attitude.  It doesn’t matter what tools you buy, what they cost, or what’s in that toolbox.  You’ve got to have the right attitude to work in this industry.”  He reminded the graduates that once they become craftsmen, those that they will mentor will pick up on their negative or positive attitude, and perform in kind.

Kidd ended with reminding the graduates that their craftsmanship would endure for them to look back on with pride.  “It’s always nice to look back at something that you did and point it out to others.  Take pride in each and every thing you do – every task you do.  Because the quality of your craftsmanship is what matters the most – it lasts for decades.”

As a final note he reminded the graduates that all quality work included working safely.  “The quality of your workmanship is the number one key in safety.  The quality of our craftsmanship ensures the safety of our families, and the safety of those family members that you work with every day out in the field, and the families in every neighborhood close to these fields.” 

Blair Williamson, CMEF Industrial Training Manager, next took the podium to recognize the CMEF staff whom he said goes “above and beyond the call of duty behind the scenes” as the largest training program providing more NCCER testing than any other chapter in the nation.  “You should see the paperwork that goes along with the work that we do!”

Williamson then recognized those CMEF trainees who had recently competed in the ABC National Craft Championship in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.

The evening finished with a celebratory and touching procession of graduates walking across the podium to accept their diplomas in each of the following fields: Sheet Metal, Combo Welding, Scaffolding, Millwright, Electrical, Pipefitting, Welding.

Congratulations to all of the 2016 CMEF Graduates!