A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Why Community Based Training? Because It Works!

The industrial construction industry is an ever changing and ever growing industry, especially in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. The Houston area, which takes on the brunt of the majority of this work, is always looking for the next idea of how to maintain a skilled workforce. Labor shortage in general is not a problem, a skilled labor force, however, is where most companies may agree on a commonality of shortages.

Melisa Wynne with Ref-Chem says, “Entry level helpers and laborers are plentiful in the Gulf Coast region. Our (Human Resources – Craft Recruiting) problem is manning a project where we need 100 skilled and certified pipefitters, boilermakers and/or welders. There are simply not enough skilled craftsmen to staff all of the projects in our region.”

In my previous life as a recruiter for a large construction company in Houston, Texas, I was in charge of staffing multiple jobs, in multiple areas of the Gulf Coast region, and they all needed to be staffed NOW! I had minimum requirements to staff each position, so guess what I did? I made sure every person I hired met those minimum requirements and pushed them through. Most of those people I hired were not who that jobsite needed or wanted. They simply had the minimum certification to fill that position, just a number. I realize looking back, that was a problem. Times have definitely changed and so has my approach.

Now most jobsites require a training history along with certifications. And most commonly and more importantly, those jobsites require NCCER training and certifications. NCCER has become in the last 20+ years the most recognized certifications that owner and contractor groups rely on to verify that an individual knows his/her craft. Not only do companies make sure that the individual applying for a particular job has an NCCER certification, but now it is just as important for that individual to have an NCCER training transcript associated with their NCCER Card Number. Training has taken a front seat and is now becoming just as important as having any certification.

“That’s why CMEF is such a valuable asset”, Melisa Wynne states. “They offer training (skillset certifications and NCCER certifications) from entry level to Project Management as well as continuing education courses. If we have a candidate and we aren’t sure of his/her abilities we can send employees for skillset evaluations so we can better understand the employee’s level of craftsmanship. You can count on CMEF to provide excellent training and performance evaluations.”

There are many different ways an individual can get NCCER training. There are several companies, colleges, and technical schools that deliver this training. Which method works best? I’m sure if you asked 10 different people in the industrial construction industry, you may get 5 or 6 different opinions. But, the delivery mechanism that works the best and that is signed off on by the majority of the industry is Community Based Training. Everyone knows that craftsmen these days hardly ever stick to one company during their entire career. Whether they are chasing turn-a-rounds, leaving a job for a quarter more an hour, or getting ROF’d and having to find the next job to jump on, craftsmen hardly ever stay put for long. We can’t change what our industry has become. We, as leaders in the industry and as Workforce Development Specialists need to learn to adapt.

I know most companies have their own internal training mechanisms set into place, and that is great, but even those companies have adapted to a Community Based Training method to be sure that the next group of people they hire will be able to perform the duties necessary to complete their job. We all share resources, we all hire the same people; we all get those same people back on a later job, why don’t we invest in the entire industry instead of just the few who work directly for you?

Makes sense right? Although most companies are moving to this type of training model, there are still those that are stuck in that old school mindset of only training their own employees. That’s great for your company, but how is that helping our industry? That’s simple, it’s not.

The leading organization in the Greater Houston Area that has mastered the art of community based training is the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF). This is the educational affiliate of Associated Builders and Contractors of Greater Houston. There is no one that can train your craftsmen better while adapting to several different training methods. CMEF has learned over the past 20+ years how to be flexible when it comes to delivering training. We can train at our location in La Porte, or at one of our many college campuses in the Houston, Alvin, or Galveston area, or on any jobsite, no matter where you are. We have conducted training in Victoria, Freeport, Beaumont, Pasadena, Baton Rouge, Corpus Christi, Deer Park, and many other locations. We take the excuses out of getting your people trained.

Sal Mellado from Performance Contractors says, “Performance Contractors uses CMEF for all kinds of training. We know that when we send an employee to CMEF to be trained, it will be done up to our standards. We especially like to use CMEF for the Welding training they provide. There is no other group developing Combination Pipe Welders like CMEF does.”

Our location can handle most any type of training that you may have. But, if we are not equipped to handle it, we coordinate with our local community colleges such as San Jacinto College, Lee College, Galveston College, College of the Mainland, Alvin Community College or Lone Star College. We make sure that all employees / students are receiving top quality training by a qualified subject matter expert, no matter where the training is being conducted. Not only do these students get top level training, but they also start building their NCCER training transcript that most employers require.

Since, most of the industry has jumped on the Community Based Training bandwagon; CMEF is used as the hub for these particular companies to get subsidized affordable training for their employees. Each Contributing Company donates a percentage of their total man hours to fund the training efforts provided at CMEF and towards WFD initiatives. These funds are strictly used for the industrial sector and allow contributing company employees to attend NCCER training at a fraction of the cost. It would be hard to find anything remotely comparable to what we do anywhere in the nation.

“CMEF is such a great asset to our company for entry level, dual certification and upgrade training. Maintenance projects are not always large enough to have programs on site. Having the opportunity to support our employees at smaller jobsites by sending them to CMEF for training along with other industrial contractors is the best collaborative training available in the region,” Carla Thompson / Turner Industries.

The companies who contribute funds do not just send employees to get trained, but most are heavily active in our committees and training efforts. We have an Industrial Training Committee (ITC) which oversees all craft training and develops new customized training when the need arises. This committee is chaired by Carla Thompson of Turner Industries, and co-chaired by Sal Mellado of Performance Contractors. The Industrial Contractor Committee (ICC) focuses on Workforce Development Initiatives, more specifically how to bring all of the WFD initiatives being driven by other groups in our industry together to join forces. Rick Rankin of Jacobs leads this committee. We also have a committee focused on WFD at a high school level; the Construction Careers Youth Committee (CCYC) is chaired by Kyle Chrisman of Austin Industrial. This committee currently works with upwards of 30+ high schools, but will be involved with 60+ schools within the next few months. Our high school program is the largest of its kind. We are able to reach thousands of young adults and help guide them towards a career in the construction industry.

Active company representatives are what make CMEF great. With steady involvement from the actual industry lets us know what we are doing right, what we need to change, and what we need to look for in the near future. CMEF’s relationship with the Houston Business Roundtable (HBR) has been strong for a number of years. And now, with the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) on board, we get to hear first-hand what the owner groups expect from us. This joint effort helps in a number of ways. We are growing stronger which enables us to deliver a wider variety of training to more individuals to better serve the industry as a whole. The owner groups are onboard with the community based training model and know that it only makes the industry more skilled and safe and contractors are able to complete their jobs on time with less injury.

Training has finally been put at the fore front of the Industrial Construction Industry. Companies are not just throwing money at training, but they are getting involved. With the amount of work expected within the next few years, it is imperative that we continue on this path of growing and expanding our training efforts. We, as contractors and owners, need to be ready for what’s around the corner. Teaching and learning in a collaborative, community based effort, will ensure that the industry in its entirety will be up for any challenge. If you are not already, I challenge you and your company to join us and get involved.

To learn more about CMEF’s Community Based Training Programs or to take a tour of CMEF’s La Porte Training Facility, contact Blair Williamson, at b.williamson@cmefhouston.org or 281-478-3900.