A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Final Post-Presentation Interviews with Attendees of the 2040 Scenarios Event

The Construction Citizen series about the presentation of two possible scenarios for what Houston might be like 30 years from now continues.  In this video containing the last of the “exit interviews” which the Construction Citizen team gathered following the 2040 Scenarios Event, attendees offered their first impressions and thoughts about the presentation and the discussion that October evening.  The first scenario presented was “Learning to Live” and was given the color green as a way to identify it from the second scenario, which was “Playing to Win” and which was identified with the color blue.

Mark Brown and Landrum Turner were asked for their quick first impressions about the two different scenarios which were presented.  Brown thought that both scenarios had potential to become reality, and that they were each thought provoking.  Turner remarked that when the community will go back to the grassroots of educating people in what they are able to do and what they want to do, that it will become a more successful society.  He said:

“I think the more we educate people in what they want to do, and help foster their knowledge, we’ll be more successful.”

Steve Dishman expressed concern that there does not appear to be any consensus of opinion between business and educational institutions regarding what training for skilled jobs should be offered.  He believes that the business community should get together and demand that the educational institutions provide the needed training programs.  He stated:

“If you had major leaguers – Exxon, Anadarko, the medical center, the law firms – get together, in a small band of significant people with significant names and looked at these institutions and say “you WILL make a change for the better”, I think it might have some impact at a faster rate than perhaps a different spotty approach.”

Ammie Hudson-Blahuta thought the Scenarios Presentation should be shown to people who, like herself, are now raising children who will be one day live in whichever future comes to exist.  Referring to what that future might be for her young son, she remarked:

“I want to believe that the future is going to be bright for him, so obviously I need to do something about that, and I need to start now.  I can’t wait until he is looking for work when he’s 18-19 or going to college and then graduating.”

She went on to say that she and her husband chose the house they bought based on which public schools were nearby, but that in order to ensure that her son has a positive experience in the schools, they will have to be involved and active with the schools.

General contractor Ken Humphries of Humphries Construction commented that the presentations highlighted the importance of an educated workforce, “not just for the construction industry, but all industries.”  He said that government cooperation would probably be needed to achieve what is needed – “an educated and a well-paid workforce that is attractive to young people coming out of school”.

Jim Noteware, Department of Housing and Community Development for the City of Houston spoke to Donna Rybiski about the resources the city has to replenish the skilled workforce.  He said that they needed to take a more active role in the recruiting of young people and in the availability of the curriculum at local colleges and universities.  He stated:

“There is tremendous amount of idleness, unfortunately, within particular areas of the cities.  So we in the city need to get out in front of this and figure out how to put the pieces together.”

Jim Penland from Gilbane Building was asked which of the scenarios he found most disturbing, and why.  He said that there were elements from each of the scenarios which concerned him.  The “Learning to Live” scenario revealed a stagnant economy for a long period of time, and he sees signs in our current situation of that becoming a reality.  The “Playing to Win” scenario did not offer good opportunities for everyone to participate in the success of the city.  When asked what the construction industry could do to “level the playing field” so that more people could participate, Penland talked about the need to return to the way the industry developed its skilled workforce in the past.  He said that when he joined the industry years before, there were many successful businessmen who owned their own businesses who had begun just as he did as working at a skilled trade. 

“They were bright, energetic contributors to their community.  In the mid-80s we lost that workforce – they left and went to do other things, and we haven’t replaced that workforce.  That was a very powerful group.  ... There’s tremendous opportunities for bright people that want to work hard and are ambitious.  Maybe they started in skilled labor, and ended up owning their own company.  And that happens all the time.  In any of these scenarios, that’s a very good possibility for bright, energetic people.”

The following is a video montage of excerpts from these interviews.  They represent just some of the reactions and thoughts offered at the end of the presentation and discussion.  Anyone interested in seeing these scenarios and hosting a discussion on these topics should contact the Center for Houston’s Future at 713-844-9303 or on the contact form on their website.

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