A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

More Construction Leaders Are Needed to “Walk the Talk” on Workforce Solutions

The “private sector solution” to workforce challenges in the Houston area is growing by leaps and bounds, but there is an incredible amount of work yet to do. The Construction Career Collaborative, or C3, continues to pick up steam and more industry leaders are being asked to join what has been described as “a movement.”

During a breakfast hosted this month by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Houston, C3 Executive Director Chuck Gremillion told executives the best way to create an industry that’s attractive to young American workers is through better craft training, safety training, and a focus on the financial security, health and well-being of craft workers.

“We’re really a pretty simple organization,” Gremillion said. “We want to attract young people to a career.”

While the vast majority of construction companies understand the need for safety training, which is a great thing, Gremillion said it is regrettable there aren’t more firms with a focus on craft training.

It is commonplace for construction companies to have a safety training director but not a craft training director, he said. “This is our biggest challenge of all,” Gremillion said. “For many of our trades, craft training does not exist,” he said, adding that “a vision for the future of the industry begins with craft training.”

“A skilled craftsperson delivers more work in less time with less rework,” Gremillion said, arguing that the increased value of the person’s work will boost demand for their services. “We believe that will inflate wages naturally, as it should,” he said. “As craft wages grow, we will attract young people to the industry.”

“We’re all about the free market,” Gremillion said. “We want to attract people to an industry where someone is taught how to be successful, can go out and be successful, and create demand for their services.”

C3 now has nine participating owners, Gremillion said, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, the Memorial Hermann System, the Greater Houston Partnership, Hines, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the “biggest fish of all” is the University of Texas System, which has expressed interest in adopting C3 for its projects. “That’s a big win for us,” Gremillion said.

During the same breakfast, the Greater Houston Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Regional Workforce Development Peter Beard said one of the most daunting challenges faced by the region is the ever-widening skills gap. That’s why the GHP, the largest business organization in Southeast Texas, launched the UpSkill Houston initiative to promote careers across seven sectors that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

“There is no one employer that can solve this problem alone so it has to be a collective activity,” Beard said. Trade organizations like ABC, AGC, and others fully recognize that the construction industry shares a workforce, Beard said. “It’s the leadership that’s essential,” he said. “Without your input, without your engagement and support and leadership this cannot take place.”

“I am proud to say that the Greater Houston Partnership is walking the talk,” Beard said as he noted the new office space for the GHP was built as a C3 project. “We felt that if we were running UpSkill Houston, we could not do our buildout if we weren’t a C3 project.”

“We need to be a leadership voice about why the business community should be thinking very differently when it does this kind of work to make sure that it’s supporting the development of craft professionals,” Beard said. “C3 is the way for us to do it.”

And that is really the point.

“We really believe that what C3 is doing is a movement,” said Gremillion, the C3 Executive Director. “It’s a paradigm shift in how to run a project. But in the end, it is a win-win-win for all parties involved.”