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Gloria Palau: A MAREK Workforce Development Program Success Story

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The following article was authored by Elizabeth McPherson and originally published on Construction Citizen.

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit the jobsite of the new Memorial Hermann patient care tower in the Texas Medical Center, where I spoke with two MAREK craft professionals who are both working on the project, and who both happen to be women.  This is the second of those two interviews, in which I interviewed foreman Gloria Palau about her recent promotion and her career in construction.

I first interviewed Gloria, who at that time was one of MAREK’s workforce trainees, on January 22, 2015 at another hospital jobsite where she was working.  I interviewed her again at MAREK’S Workforce Training Graduation later that year on July 29, when she was a graduating Helper, meaning that she had then completed the basic level of training.

After Gloria completed the steps to become a trainee, she continued developing her craft by taking more advanced workforce development classes offered at MAREK.  She also enrolled in the Construction Management program at Houston Community College, where she still currently takes classes.  Two years ago, she was promoted to become a coach to other trainees at MAREK.

Gloria received her grey hardhat on January 9, indicating that she is now a foreman at MAREK.  As a foreman, she supervises framers and sheetrockers – currently only 43 workers, but at times up to 100, depending on the project.  On the current project, she is supervising the interior framing and drywalling from levels 5 through 16.  She works with leadmen who each have a crew assigned to a specific task, and she makes sure all of the crews build their assigned parts correctly.  She gets the inspection reports from the City of Houston between the framing and the drywalling.  Her job requires a great deal of organizational skills!  Saied Alavi, Managing Director at MAREK, said her job is similar to that of an orchestra conductor, making sure that all the parts work together to create something beautiful.

Gloria recently worked on a Texas Children’s Hospital jobsite, running the Total Station.  Total Station is a technology which works with Building Information Modeling (BIM) to measure angles and distances extremely accurately for laying out new construction.  Gloria used it to lay out the walls, ceilings, furr downs, and such for each floor from levels 12 through 23 on that project.

I asked Gloria what advice she would give to someone who hopes to move up the ladder in a construction career as she has done.  Gloria answered:

“Not only take the classes that MAREK offers, but also challenge yourself.  Challenge yourself; challenge the foremen. … Put yourself out there.  Sell yourself to the foreman and tell him that this is what you really want.  Never give up hope. … Don’t look at anybody else, just do your best.  No matter what they have you doing, give it your one hundred percent – whatever task your superior puts you to do.”

I asked Gloria to talk about how her team is following the Construction Career Collaborative (C3) principles, as required by the owners of the Memorial Hermann hospital project.  She said that they have a safety meeting every morning where they go over the safety requirements for the specific tasks that will be performed on each particular day.  Topics addressed include lifts, scaffolding, checking required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and anything specific to the day’s work.  “That’s a daily routine all the time.  Never [say] ‘OK, I inspected it yesterday.’  No – all the time.  You go to lunch, you take it off – you come back, inspect your equipment again.  That’s something that we tell the guys all the time.”

You can watch some of my interview in the 4-minute video below.

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