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WFD Graduates Encouraged to take Pride in Building Houston

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The following article was authored by Elizabeth McPherson and originally published on ConstructionCitizen.com.

I recently wrote about a Workforce Development Graduation honoring 21 Helpers, 19 Mechanics, and 9 Foremen who had recently completed those in-house training programs at Marek.  The keynote speaker for the evening was Peter Beard, Senior Vice President for Regional Workforce Development at the Greater Houston Partnership.  Mike Holland, Chief Operating Officer at Marek, presented Beard with a certificate of appreciation for his work in the Houston community.  It stated:

“The young men and women we are recognizing tonight will relate to their coaches, peers, supervisors, and workforce development staff as advocates for their future.  Behind the scenes, other advocates are working tirelessly to create a better path forward for all craft professionals.  Tonight we honor a man who has grown to understand the value the critical role our future craft workforce plays in the construction supply standing.  Peter Beard understands that employers must lead the way for our future workforce, and has utilized his role with the Greater Houston Partnership’s Upskill initiative to further a supportive business, educational, and community environment and to improve the path forward for a sustainable workforce in the future.  We want to acknowledge Peter Beard as a champion of the construction industry workforce.”

Beard began his remarks by expressing his appreciation for the efforts of the coaches, mentors, and supervisors who help develop the skilled workforce, saying that Marek is a “bright spot” in addressing the critical challenge of meeting the industry’s need for skilled workers.  He said “In order to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy, we need a qualified and skilled workforce.”  He also congratulated the graduates for each choosing to be a part of the construction industry where there are many rewarding opportunities including being a skilled craft professional, becoming a coach or manager, or even leading a company.

Beard then entered into the main theme of his remarks by stating: “Houston didn’t get built behind the desk that I sit at to do my work.  It got built by folks like you.”  He encouraged the graduates to consider as they look at the buildings of the city and imagine all of the people served by those buildings, that each of those buildings was built by skilled craft professionals such as themselves.  Hospitals, office buildings, entertainment centers, petrochemical sites along the ship channel – all were built by craft professionals.  Even the schools in which our youth are being educated and trained for our economy going forward – “all of that takes place in the buildings that you helped build to provide the opportunity for that learning.”  He talked about buildings which are a part of Houston’s history such as the Johnson Space Center and buildings which will become part of Houston’s future like the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  He said that those who build these are an important part of the city’s history and future.

Beard spoke about the challenge of making people aware of why a person would want to enter the construction industry.  He said that the stories told by these graduates and others can help break down negative perceptions.  He then read some quotes from interviews of workers and supervisors on a recent local construction site:

“I met my wife while she was working at a snow cone stand.  I have been in construction for about 20 years, so I used to go there after leaving a site on hot days.”

“I started doing duct work and decided to transition into being an electrician.  I was interested in starting a career.”

“I play the accordion.”

“It is an exciting career.  This is the year for women in construction.  I have never seen so many women in construction.”

“When I came to the company, I didn’t have any experience.  Now I can read blueprints, I can hang sheetrock, I can frame – it has been really good for me.”

“I love working with my team.  One day I am going to settle down and buy a house.”

“I was working at a warehouse near the airport when my dad’s friend got me into construction.  I always wanted a career rather than a job, and there is so much opportunity in this field.”

“My biggest accomplishment is that I can come to work every day and provide for my family.”

“My favorite part is seeing completion, because you go from nothing to something, and then something that is pretty amazing.  Especially when you think about the capabilities of people – I like to see what people can accomplish.”

Beard said that it was clear from the interviews that people are proud of their work and that they know that they are building a legacy.  They know that when they work on something like a school or a hospital that other people will benefit from that work.

Beard praised the managers, coaches, and supervisors for truly living up to the phrase “employees are our most valuable asset.”  He said that at Marek this is not just talk; it is action.  He said their leadership helps each employee feel engaged with their work, which leads to the overall success of the company.  The employees are given the help and the tools needed to be successful, and are taught to be committed to do quality work.

Beard continued to talk about leadership as he closed his speech.  He said:

“What we have here in this room with many of the leaders from associations, from owner companies, from contractors and specialty contractors – are folks that do want to lead.  That is rare in this country.  We distinguish ourselves here in Houston because we have that kind of leadership that believes that coming together collectively, we can actually solve one of the most intractable problems that exists: we can develop young people who become really good workers.  It takes the leadership that exists in this room and others.  And it also takes the mentors, coaches, and supervisors that are also present, because it is you that actually touch that workforce and develop it.  Once again I want to congratulate the graduates; thank the mentors, coaches, and supervisors for the good work that you do; and thank Stan and Mike for the great work they do as leaders.  Thank you for your commitment here at Marek for trying to make Houston an even better and greater place.”

The evening concluded with some inspirational words from the company’s chief executive officer, Stan Marek:

“I want to thank our industry partners for taking the time to come out this evening and honor these men and women.  It is very much appreciated.  Peter, you said it so well: ‘Some companies talk.  Some companies walk the talk.’  When you look at ‘Strength from Within,’ never has it been more obvious who that strength is.  Look next to you – at the man or lady next to you.  You are the strength from within.  You are the company.  My name may be Marek, but without you – nothing.  Don’t forget that.

“Man, what a skill you guys have learned.  You are going to be able to take that skill anywhere in the world and work, make a living for your family.  Just think about it: the skill you are learning.  It is so important for our kids to learn how to use these (Marek indicates his hands) for something other than video games.  You are breaking the mold; that is so so important.  And Peter, you said it so well: pride.  How can you not drive through this city – anywhere you look, what do you see?  A building that you worked on with your hands.  You created an environment for schools, for churches, for entertainment, for offices – you did it!  How many people worked on the Exxon campus?  (Stan asks for a show of hands.)  Is that not the most amazing project in the world?  And you did it.

“Never lose that pride.  I think that is something that the Marek’s stand for: coming from nothing, like many people in this room, learning a skill, being the best at that skill, working hard, and succeeding.  For that, you deserve to be proud.  You deserve to feel good about everything that each one of you does every day.  I know it is not easy.  [You work when] it is hot, and when it is cold.  Through all kinds of conditions, you make it happen.  So on behalf of all of the Marek family and all of us, we want to say thank you.  Thank you so much for making this company what it is for all of us.”

You may listen to Marek’s remarks in the 2½-minute video below.

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