A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Let’s Salute Our Craft Workers

The following article originally appeared in the December newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

Read any industry publication or newspaper article on the construction boom in Houston and throughout Texas and the phrase “craft worker shortage” will appear in the early paragraphs.  It is the number one strategic challenge facing contractors of all types.  The residential builders are faced with alternating crews between projects; the highway and road builders are working short.  Most commercial trade contractors would hire at least 10 more craft workers tomorrow, and the big industrial contractors, with mega-projects just about to start, estimate they are as much as 65% short, despite juicy per diems.  Schedules in all markets are strained; overtime is almost the standard everywhere.

Since the trained, skilled craft worker has become the “pearl of great price” in this wonderful market, it is fair to ask ourselves about our own mindset toward them.  Do we really appreciate the knowledge, skill and stamina they bring, that allow us to meet labor productivity budgets?  Do we realize that most are very reliable, requiring minimal supervision, just clear direction and drawings?  Or have we become too wrapped up in more exciting, seductive technology advancements like BIM, iPads, Lasers and Robotics?  For those of us office-based, and playing with these glamorous new toys, it is easy to forget our craft workers – those hard hatted, tool belt and PPE wearing, lunch box toting men and women, who show up every day and use their heads and hands to put work in place – the essential reason our company was hired in the first place!

At a recent “Outstanding Apprentice Contest”, featuring Carpenter and Millwright Apprentices, the pride and professionalism of these aspiring craft workers was on full display.  Their competency, accuracy and productivity levels were under rigorous scrutiny from tough, but caring, judges.  It was inspiring and reassuring to watch them work.  A carpenter judge from Minnesota said. “It is imperative to ensure they are fully prepared, because I train them that from the day they graduate, they should carry themselves with pride and introduce themselves as, “I am a Construction Professional; I am a Union Carpenter.”

So no matter where we get our craft workers – through the union programs, through open shop programs or through our own training – as this year ends, let us all stand, come to military attention, and render a smart salute to our “Construction Professionals.”  They allow us to be truly authentic “builders.”

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