workforce development

Opening the Invisible Door [VIDEO]

A few weeks ago, Saied Alavi, Director of Operations at Marek Brothers Houston, and I visited an active construction site on the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) campus. The new Jennie Sealy Hospital is scheduled to be completed later this year and open for patients early next year. We went there to talk with Gloria Palau, one of Marek’s workforce trainees, to learn about her experience with Marek since she entered her new career about a year ago. Frank Villarreal, Safety Advisor for the project, met us at the check-in trailer, and walked us onto the site to the floor where Gloria was working that day.

When did it become socially unacceptable to obtain a career in construction?

At an early age, young children, especially boys, are given all sorts of construction toys. These toys spark creativity and allow our kids the opportunity to use their imagination. They develop concepts such as structural design and receive an early introduction into math, physics, mechanics, and engineering, all of which are turned into fun learning adventures. Cartoon programs with names such Handy Manny and Bob the Builder have become popular and appeal to children’s imaginative personalities. My own son even runs around with a hardhat and tool belt fixing things that don’t really need to be fixed.

If construction is considered to be a great early learning experience, why is it not an acceptable career option for an adult?

Most parents who once supported their child’s curiosity for construction are the first to say it is not a career option. These parents are not knowledgeable about the opportunities that exist for their children or the money that can be made working in the field.

The construction industry is dealing with an image issue that has been set in place for years, and we must now break down these stereotypes. The industry is also dealing with a shortage of skilled and qualified workers and is trying to come up with new and innovative ideas to get young adults interested in a career in construction. It is time to start educating young adults, parents, teachers, and counselors about what a great industry construction is. Working in construction doesn’t just have to be a job. It is a career and a very good one at that.

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