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Growing a Sustainable Construction Workforce in Houston

As a specialty contractor with a significant hourly workforce in the commercial construction industry, I am deeply concerned about a disturbing trend that has developed over the past thirty years and has recently escalated to a new level. Beginning with the 1980s economic decline in Houston and Texas, and continuing over the last three decades, employment practices in the commercial construction industry have deteriorated to the point that, for the most part, the employee/employer relationship is almost non- existent. Except at the more responsible companies, the once valued partnership between employer and worker has been replaced by the hiring of independent 1099 contractors, “pieceworkers” and temporary staffing companies. In response to owners demanding lower prices, general contractors and specialty contractors alike have largely become “brokers” of the construction process, using contracts and questionable employment arrangements to manage labor on construction sites. What began in an effort to compete during a difficult time in the 80s has persisted through extended periods of prosperity, only to accelerate during the current economic difficulties we now face.

Crucial Changes Called For in Construction Workforce Development

Last Wednesday was a great day for reflection about the workforce issue, at least for me. It began at a lunch gathering of Associated Builders and Contractors Past Presidents and the current executive committee to gather insight and input for the coming year’s planning session objectives, as requested by the ABC Greater Houston Chapter incoming chair Tim Ricketts. As Tim asked the past presidents for recollection of significant issues, accomplishments, and struggles during their respective terms, the issues of workforce, craft training, and unions dominated the discussion. Familiar themes of owner input and related issues, union difficulties, and economics were brought up. For example, owners were paying a significant training contribution via the union wage and fringe benefits to contractors, but didn’t see the value in paying contractors or ABC to do training in a merit shop environment.

Bisnow Breakfast Brings Specialty Contractors in Contact With Clients

I attended the Bisnow – Office of the Future breakfast on Tuesday, April 3rd, and was once again impressed with the overall quality of the event and the information. I was part of a fairly large Marek contingent, as we were partnering with Office Furniture Innovations (OFI) and Modular Architectural Interiors (MAI). We had an exhibit highlighting our Novawall and Mecho Shade systems for the design and brokerage communities. This was not my first Bisnow experience as I had attended several previously. The crowd at this event was a little different due to the “Office of the Future” theme, and consisted of a significant number of design professionals, as well as those brokers who were interested in the office of the future theme. The Marek exhibit drew considerable interest and several quality leads were generated. In addition, we held a drawing for an iPAD based on business cards dropped in our box. Marek was happy to award the winner, Will Euston with Harvey Builders, with a brand new iPAD.

ASA Houston Discusses C3 Initiative at November Luncheon

On November 17th, the Houston Chapter of the American Subcontractors Association held its monthly membership luncheon at the HESS Club. The topic for the meeting was a panel discussion covering the Construction Career Collaborative (C3) initiative. Panelists were Peter R. Dawson, AIA, Senior Vice President, Facilities Services, Texas Children’s Hospital; Joe Savala, Associate Vice President, Facilities Administration, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; Jim Stevenson, CEO, W.S. Bellows Construction Corporation; and Tom Vaughn, CEO, Vaughn Construction. I served as the panel moderator, leading the panel through a series of questions covering:

Virtual Construction Services with BIM

Exterior Framing – We have the capability to break the exterior walls into different layers. Our design can reveal framing, sheathing, and other layers which can be added in an exterior wall along with attachment clips as required.


 

VA clinic completed

The VA clinic is completed, and recently opened in south east Austin. We'd like to thank all of our employees for their hard work as well as foreman Doug Prew!

 

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