This Week's Second Look

These are posts that were published in the past on Construction Citizen and then featured for a second time at a later date in our weekly email newsletter. If you are not receiving our newsletter but would like to, please send your request to newsletter@constructioncitizen.com.

Some lawmakers raised questions this week about whether school districts around Texas have the kind of resources they'll need to fully implement sweeping education reforms signed into law last year.  Starting this fall, students will have several new options for which path they'd like to take to earn a high school diploma.  But whether those kids and their parents will receive adequate guidance up front about their choices has become a point of contention.

The flexibility in graduation plans was part of a broader education reform package that got a “yes” vote from all of the 181 members of the Texas Legislature.   Read more » about More Resources May Be Needed For Texas Education Reforms to Work

I interviewed Patrick Jankowski, Chief Economist for the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) after a recent AGC Outlook Breakfast in which Jankowski labeled the current cycle as the “New Normal.”  He stated that this cycle is different in that the past cycles have rocketed from Boom to Bust and back again; however, this time is a new cycle where the boom goes to long term stability.  He told us that a job creation rate of 70,000 or so per year would indeed keep the Houston-Galveston economy growing faster than most other metro areas in the United States.

I asked about some of the big issues that the GHP, the region’s largest business organization, was studying.  Those issues include transportation, education and healthcare.   Read more » about From Boom and Bust to Boom and Stability [VIDEO]

A research report that was published last month by the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (FWCI) has industry leaders talking about their workforce development programs.  Titled
Attracting Young People into Construction Field Positions, the report focuses on the need for employers to make their workplaces more attractive to the new generation which is now entering the job market.  It resonates with one of the themes we have been reporting for the past three years, as the construction industry approaches a critical shortage of skilled workers.

Steven Etkin, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI), said:

“As the construction industry continues its recovery, competition for new young workers with other industries – construction, agriculture, and oil and gas – is going to intensify.   Read more » about Report Says Millennials Seek Modern Work Environment

“It’s a ‘which comes first: the chicken or the egg’ issue.”  That is how Pete Dawson, Senior Vice President of Facilities Services for Texas Children’s Hospital, expressed his thoughts as an owner working to advance the principles of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3).

The dilemma for the owner, according to Mr. Dawson, is accepting the need to pay more now for a skilled workforce that will only be available in the future.  However, most agree that the young men and women who decide to forego college are not likely to choose an industry that might have a job for them, but not a career.

Mr. Dawson said he certainly understands the owner’s concern about higher costs with minimal short-term results.  But he added, “I tell them to think about the cost to your project five to ten years from now due to the low productivity and missed schedules of an untrained workforce.   Read more » about The C3 Owner's Dilemma

An unfortunate reality of the industry we cover is that there are many instances of worker abuse. We have documented much of this on Construction Citizen over the years.  Terrible working conditions, worker misclassification, lack of health insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, denial of overtime pay and other problems honestly keep me up at night.  But, I was only fairly recently alerted to just how prevalent human trafficking is in construction.

Houston is ground zero for human trafficking in the United States and for that reason, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Bridging America Task Force will present its third immigration summit on March 18 at 8 am at Rice University.   Read more » about Immigration Summit in Houston to Focus on Human Trafficking

According to Giles Lamberston in a recent post for Construction Equipment Guide, the recent AGC study on workforce studies points to both a short and long term need for more skilled workers.

Lamberston makes a couple of great points that I think are important. He writes, “The larger truth is that until blue-collar labor is accorded the same respect given software work and other white-collar employment, young people will opt for college degrees of increasingly shrinking career value.  There was a time when skilled construction trades men and women were honored for their labor.  Now such positions are considered a last resort or an interim job.  Consequently, many of the ‘best and brightest’ drift into careers and professions that are trendier but, ultimately, less personally rewarding.   Read more » about Construction Jobs Available, Workers Not!

This morning a group of construction workers and supporters of the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center held a protest across from the site of a new discount store to demand justice for nine workers who are owed more than $16,000 in unpaid wages by their employer, subcontractor Carole Johnson Builders LLC and the general contractor on the project, Williams Development and Construction Inc.  Fifteen workers who did interior construction work on the building were not paid for all of the hours they worked during January and February of this year.   Read more » about Unpaid Construction Workers Protest in Houston

In Texas political races all over the state, candidates are being grilled about what they think of sweeping education reforms passed by the legislature last year.  While there is pretty much universal agreement that the big reductions in standardized testing were a positive step, there is controversy about changes to graduation requirements that create multiple paths to a high school diploma.  The idea, essentially, is that not all kids will go to college so the state will now promote both college readiness as well as career readiness.

The business community is not monolithic, so there are some such as the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Association of Business as well as some minority rights groups which want to roll back those reforms.   Read more » about Education Reforms Emerge As a Point of Contention in Texas Political Contests

We recently attended the signing ceremony for the first alliance between the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and MEMCO, a construction-oriented staffing agency.  Why was it important for us to cover that signing?

Worker safety is the most critical issue in the construction industry today, followed closely by training and certification.  The developing skilled worker shortage has increased the demand for those skilled workers, and construction oriented staffing agencies like MEMCO provide workers on a temporary or contract basis to clients around the country.  MEMCO and OSHA believe that it is critical that those temporary workers have safety training before they go to a worksite to avoid safety issues and reportable accidents when they are under contract.   Read more » about OSHA - MEMCO Alliance Signed in Houston [VIDEO]

After Debbie Sterling graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design, she recognized two things:

  1. only about 11% of engineers are women, and
  2. not all little girls want to play with dolls and kitchen sets.

She decided to create a line of construction toys especially for girls.  She began with a construction set and a companion book series starring Goldie, “the kid inventor who loves to build.”  These were the beginning of her company GoldieBlox, which was initially funded with her own life savings and with money raised through KickStarter.   Read more » about Construction Toys for Girls? Absolutely! [VIDEO]

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