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

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]

In what will hopefully be the first in a series of events like it across Texas, business leaders and educators from the Houston area gathered to talk about the best ways they can work together to put kids on track for the skilled trades if that’s what those students want to do.  The Building Careers: Construction Workforce Luncheon was well attended on November 5. As we’ve written many times on Construction Citizen, the college-for-all mentality and policy this state has embraced over the last decade has become a hindrance to the success of many students and the people who will eventually be their employers.  That’s why there was a huge push in the Texas Legislature this year to reform curriculum and graduation requirements in a way that provides flexibility for students to either go to college or head straight for a career.   Read more » about Educators and Business Leaders Come Together to Support School Reforms

Originally posted by Mike Holland on

On Thursday, November 21st, of this year I, along with 50 other executives, “slept out” on the grounds of the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for kids, to help raise awareness and much needed funds. For me, it was the second time to participate in this wonderful and transformative event. I was introduced to this by a good friend Kurt Nondorf, who has served on the Covenant board for several years. Admittedly, when Kurt first asked me, I really did not know what I had agreed to. I just did it because I trust him, and if he thought it was important, then I was willing to do whatever he asked.

With a little help from my assistant Whitney, and the Covenant House staff I soon had a fund raising page up on the Covenant website, and after a few e-mails and calls the money started rolling in. I was surprised at the amount of passion and interest in the plight of the homeless, but my own level of concern was yet to be determined.

What an experience the Sleep Out turned out to be! The evening began with the “intake process”, where homeless youth are interviewed and introduced to the staff and facility. Each of us “sleepers” experienced the intake process, similar to what a young man or woman would when entering the Covenant House.   Read more » about Executive Sleep Out

According to an article in the International Business Times this week, students from the Red Clay School District in Delaware set a new Guinness World Record for the tallest tower ever built of Lego blocks.  The tower was built in sections by each of the 28 schools in the district, and assembled at the John Dickinson High School in Wilmington, Delaware last August.

According to the IBT article, the students, with a little help from sponsors and friends, constructed a tower which is “made out of 500,000 LEGO bricks, weighs almost a ton, and is exactly 112 feet, 11¾ inches tall.  At more than 10 stories high, it shatters the previous record, held by a 106-foot tower built in Prague in 2012.

“The tower was built almost entirely by students from the Red Clay School District over the summer and the last few days of the 2012-2013 school year.  But volunteer contractors helped with the final assembly last week, placing the tower pieces together using cranes and lifts.”   Read more » about Students Set World Record for Tallest Lego Tower

On a weather-perfect, sunny fall day just north of Houston last month, 280 golfers participated in a charity tournament, luncheon, and silent auction benefitting the Good Shepherd Residential Treatment Center through the recently created Building New Foundations nonprofit volunteer organization.  Thousands of dollars were raised which will benefit the Center which helps boys who are considered to be too “high risk” for regular foster care.  Without the efforts of the staff and volunteers at Good Shepherd, and the money raised from private donations, these boys would not have a safe place to live or much hope for their futures.

The golf tournament kicked off with a Putting Contest and a Marshmallow Drive.  Then groups of four took to the links to vie for other awards such as Longest Drive and Closest to the Pin – or at least to turn in a respectable score.   Read more » about Get in the Game

Now that the City of Houston is moving forward with a policy to crack down on employers that steal the wages of workers, the pressure will be on to make it work.  It'll be no small task because, as you well know, those that engage in these crimes against hard-working Texans are pretty slippery characters.  And that's probably being kind about it.  Laura Perez-Boston at the Fe y Justicia Worker Center tells us exactly what the law is designed to do:

“The ordinance establishes a process housed in the Office of the Inspector General through which employees can bring wage claims forward.  Companies with a documented record of wage theft – either final adjudication from a court of competent jurisdiction or a criminal conviction – will be included in a publicly listed database on the City’s website and will be ineligible for city contracts or sub-contracts.  Additionally, any company with a criminal conviction of wage theft will be ineligible to receive occupational permits and licenses.”   Read more » about Houston Must Aggressively Enforce Its Wage Theft Ordinance