Effective development of the work force requires embracing a long-term and career-oriented perspective. A foundation for a sustainable workforce begins with legal work status and a proper employment relationship and is reinforced by training programs, new skills acquisition and opportunities for advancement.

Now that it’s been given the green light by the the Austin City Council, a new program will launch in the coming weeks to expedite permitting for construction projects including "living wages" for large commercial projects.

The Austin Business Journal described the program this way:

After paying the additional fees, residential, mixed-use and small commercial projects can join the expedited permitting program with no extra hurdles. However major commercial projects — at least 75,000 square feet or $7.5 million in value, with no residential uses — must submit to oversight by a third party, such as the Workers Defense Project through its Better Builder Program.    Read more » about Austin Prepares to Launch New Expedited Building Permit Program

The following article was authored by Mark L. Johnson and originally published in AWCI's Construction Dimensions magazine.

How do you ensure workers sharpen their skill sets? It’s a problem common in regions lacking unions and their great training programs. Most open shops can’t afford to develop craft training on their own. It’s time-consuming. It’s expensive.

So, how can it get done?

One idea comes from Houston. The Construction Career Collaborative (C3) has several high-profile projects, including some for the Texas Children’s Hospital. C3 has a novel approach: Owners require all players to have training programs in place. It’s a prerequisite to bid a C3 job.

“The wisdom behind what we’re doing is that it’s owner-driven,” says Chuck Gremillion, C3’s executive director. “The owner says, ‘This is my ballgame. These are my rules.’”    Read more » about Trained to Win

President Trump's hastily arranged ban on foreigners traveling to the United States from select countries sparked protests, invited a court fight, and helped make the case for large-scale immigration reform - even if that last result was not a consequence he intended.

During the campaign and in defending his most recent immigration actions, Trump repeatedly has made the argument that we need to know who is here and what their intentions are toward the United States. On that, he could not be more correct.

But instead of governing in precisely the way that Republicans for years criticized President Obama - issuing executive orders only to have them quickly and aggressively challenged in federal court - President Trump could seize the moment of a unified GOP government in Washington and work with leaders in his own party to enact a meaningful and lasting solution. Without giving anyone a free pass, the time is right to identify and tax those who are now living in the shadows.    Read more » about Trump's Immigration Actions Underscore Need for Reform

A construction company in Washington state faces stiff fines for "numerous repeated safety violations" that reportedly "exposed workers to potential falls and other hazards at a residential construction site." The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries slapped J&I Construction with fines resulting from multiple violations. Now the company owes more than $200,000.

More from the Insurance Journal:

The three violations, each with a penalty of $42,000, were for not providing proper fall protection to three employees who were working on the top edge of a wall nearly 20 feet off the ground, and the company has been cited two other times for the same issue, according to L&I.

J & I was also cited for three repeat violations for not having a plan outlining the fall hazards on the specific job, exposing workers to unguarded wall openings that they could fall through and for not ensuring that workers didn’t stand or step on the top of a self-supporting ladder. Each violation carries a penalty of $21,000.

The company was cited for two additional repeat violations for not having railings on open-sided stairs to protect employees from falls ($5,600), and for not ensuring that employees wore hard hats where there was a danger of flying or falling objects ($4,200).    Read more » about Construction Firm Hit with Major Fine for Safety Violations

It is a game almost older than dirt, a “table stakes” game. Every contractor or sub has been tempted to play the game at one time or another to win a project. It is commonly known as “the grey bag,” or “this is the way it is played here,” or “I know that you are not the lowest, but…” or “if you will hire this consultant on the project, I will guarantee that you will get it,” or “if you will hire my cousin’s company as a sub on this project or that one, then I will help you get the project.”

The legal profession knows it as “bribery” and even though it continues on projects around the country, the downside risk if you play is considerable.

Two recent examples caught our eye. The first was reported in the Houston Chronicle. It involves a former Houston Independent School Board member and Chairman who, along with his co-defendants, were convicted of “tortious interference in a business relationship, bribery, conspiracy and a violation of the RICO statutes." The game involved collusion among the trustee, a contractor and a “consultant” to block the plaintiff’s attempts to get work from the school district. The game was that in order to get work, the bidder had to hire the consultant and pay fees.    Read more » about Games Contractors, Subs and Owners Play: Bribery

An article by Johnny Magdaleno which was published in Next City last month offers reactions by representatives from the Workers Defense Project and Workforce Solutions Capital Area to a report by personal finance website NerdWallet which listed Austin, Texas as “the best place to search for a job in 2017.”

The Austin area is indeed growing its employment opportunities in technical fields with the opening of Apple’s new campus and the promised funding by Microsoft, Google, and IBM for internships for low-income job seekers and veterans through the TechHire initiative.

However, workers in the construction, restaurant, and other service industries are not all finding the same job growth opportunities.   Read more » about Austin, Texas: Best City for Job Seekers?

It turns out that it is safer to be a construction worker on a skyscraper than on a shorter building. According to a report in Commercial Observer, the safety measures utilized on major buildings that are 10 stories or more are much more stringent than the those put on minor buildings (less than 10 stories), and historically this has resulted in more fatal accidents on shorter building projects:

“From 2010 to 2015, there were 1,446 accidents on construction sites, resulting in 40 deaths, and 75 percent of those fatalities happened in buildings with less than 10 stories, according to a 2016 report by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY)”

Although accidents happen on both tall and short building projects, safety violations are more likely to accompany accidents on minor projects because of the lack of safety oversight.    Read more » about Report: The Taller the Building, the Safer the Jobsite

It is always gratifying to witness a group of construction leaders gathering to discuss the state of our workforce and what might be done if we acted in concert.

I experienced that recently in Atlanta, Georgia at a meeting of the Construction Industry Employer Roundtable. As a guest of MAREK and MEMCO Atlanta, I joined approximately 12 construction trade associations represented by about 20 executives, along with a few contractors and specialty contractors, who were recognizing the one-year anniversary of their existence.

The formation of this group acknowledges the workforce challenge facing the construction industry, across our nation, and the need for the industry to come together to collaborate, develop a collective voice, and align strategies.    Read more » about There is Life Out There On the Workforce Frontier

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