Back in January, C3 hosted a meeting with members of its board of directors and other interested parties to establish new strategic goals. One of the primary themes that emerged was the importance of identifying and collecting metric data that validates the business case of C3.
Since that meeting, C3 has formed a metrics committee that includes committee chair, John Barnes of Rogers-O'Brien Construction, Art Canales of Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing, Pete Dawson who recently retired from Texas Children’s Hospital, Craig Peterson of Peterson Beckner Industries, Bud Walters of Pieper-Houston Electric and me to tackle this critical issue.
This committee met for the first time on April 17th with the initial goal of identifying metrics that are as broadly applicable as possible. The committee recognized that metrics collection is a complex topic that is affected by many variables, which can make the goal of broad application a challenge. Committee members focused on the identification of both “project-specific metrics” and “employer-specific metrics”. We also recognized that it would be a mistake to try to “boil the ocean” so we agreed that it is important to start simple, have success and build upon that success.
Please keep in mind that the committee has met only once with future meetings still to come, but these are some of the possibilities that it identified, several of which are like an onion and may have many layers of complexity.
One important item of note, similar to building a skilled and sustainable craft workforce, the story told by the collection of metrics data is like writing a book that never ends. It takes time, and it tells an on-going story that is perpetual if continuously updated. Metrics measure performance thereby providing feedback to those in control of the process, which enables them to make adjustments in order to continuously improve.
Similarly, we believe that metrics will establish the business case that will prove the value of C3 to all involved with it, but we must first correctly identify the proper data to collect, establish the collection process, collect the data, interpret the results and then communicate the findings.
The C3 Metrics Committee welcomes your input. If your company is tracking metrics that have proven to be valuable measurements of performance and you would like to share them, please contact me either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 713.999.1218. Please note that we are not asking you to share confidential information that is proprietary to your organization. We are interested only in the topic and method of collection.
April 4th was a big day for us at C3. We launched our first annual career fair for graduating high school seniors around Houston. School guidance counselors and the C3 People Development team put a lot of effort into preparing the students to meet hiring companies. Arriving at Wheeler Field House, resumes in hand and dress shoes shined, the students were ready. As they wandered around the display booths, I stopped groups of students and asked what I thought would be a simple, logical question to help point them to the right C3 hiring companies. After all, how hard could it be for a student to answer, “What do you want to do after graduation?” Repeatedly, I was given a stunned and bemused look of incredulous disbelief. As students tried not to roll their eyes, they answered “hmm, Construction?” How could I not already know that answer, after all wasn’t I the one who recruited them to come to a “construction” career fair. Students didn’t understand that drywall is not masonry, and neither are working in roofing or fire protection. This lack of awareness about the wealth of options construction has to offer its craft professionals is one of the hurdles that our industry must aggressively address in the upcoming years. While the students may not have known the differences between General Contractors and Specialty Contractors, they all shared one thing in common, a desire to work.
I also get similar reactions of awe and disbelief when I talk to their parents. Ears perk up and light bulbs begin to come on when we talk about how the industry can provide a standard of living that is equivalent to what college provides without the debt. The “No Child Left Behind” movement, of the last 20 years, has parents telling kids that college is the only road to success and school counselors are echoing that through the halls of the high schools. Honestly, until my work at C3, I would have been right there with them. Even though Texas House Bill 5, which requires all graduates to have a career or college readiness endorsement, has made strides toward educating parents and counselors about non-college routes and preparing students for construction careers, they still think in small limited terms. Watching career fair students interact with companies, either in demonstrations or discussions, it was clear that we cannot give them too much information. Like sponges, they soaked up the idea that masonry was relevant and engaging, working from heights was dangerous but exhilarating, and interiors is more than just hanging drywall and painting. These students and their peers are begging for us to come to them and tell them what they can dare to dream and build.
Wells Fargo’s 2019 Construction Industry Index highlights that 47% of the contractors in their survey indicate their “utmost concern is the ability to hire qualified workers.” Reaching Generation Z, as they prepare to enter the workforce, closing the knowledge gap about construction careers for parents and high school counselors, and skilling students in order to mitigate the rising risk of debilitating workforce shortage, must become the most important thing for our industry’s long-term survival. FMI executive, Pat Kiley, offers a conservative estimate that the revenue from the built environment will double in the Greater Houston Area by 2045, as long there are workers to build it. Attracting workers to the industry and educating them on the benefits of a craft profession is at the heart of creating a sustainable workforce. C3 is committed to continuing the dialogue with schools, parents, counselors and students. To join the conversation and make a difference in the future of the industry, contact C3 today. Together we can influence a generation to build Houston forward using the hands of safe, skilled craft professionals recruited from our very own local high schools.
By Chuck Gremillion, Executive Director, Construction Career Collaborative (C3)
Recently, C3 board member Tom Vaughn of Vaughn Construction emailed me a scan of an article that he cut out of the March 4/11, 2019 edition of ENR Magazine on the subject of Workforce Development entitled CURT Rolls Out Program to Grade Contractors on Training. The article tells the story of the utility Southern Company sending “its primary contractors a letter quizzing them on the level of their workforce training”. It went on to say that “the questionnaire is Southern’s first step toward prequalifying and hiring only contractors who invest in worker training”. This was done in response to a recommendation from the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), of which Southern Company is a member, at its annual conference in Orlando in February. What makes this significant is that it may foretell a shift in how contractors are selected by those companies, like Southern, that purchase construction services.
The reason that I share this occurrence is that CURT, a highly respected organization of construction users, has data that proves the value of training for the construction workforce and its impact on construction projects. The article goes on to cite the results of a case study that was profiled at the CURT conference referenced earlier, where training costs of $234,239 incurred on a project generated a labor savings of $664,364 on that same project. This is in addition to data gathered by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) which confirms that every dollar invested in workforce training generates a return of $3. The chart below published by CII, also referenced in the ENR article, illustrates these findings.
Return on Investment for Committed Workforce Development
If 1% of the Project Labor Budget Were Invested in Training…
Expected Average Improvement
Capital Projects Maintenance Projects
Productivity 11% 10%
Turnover Cost 14% 14%
Absenteeism 15% 15%
Injury 26% 27%
Rework 23% 26%
$1.00 invested in training = $3.00 ROI
The shift to prequalify contractors on the basis of the quality of the training of their workforce is not a surprise. It is driven by data and common sense. Trained, skilled workers are safer workers who produce high quality work, and more of it, in less time with less rework. The employee retention rate among workers in a company with a robust culture of training is much higher than those who companies without such a culture, and absenteeism is markedly lower. The projects produced by these companies also have much lower maintenance costs over the long term.
It is not a coincidence that woven into the highest performing construction companies is an evergreen culture of workforce development. This culture of training helps make these companies more profitable, which in turn enables them to continue to reinvest in training and their employees. Very importantly, it fuels their growth and makes them much more attractive to individuals considering a career in the construction craft trades or to those who are considering a change of employers.
Owners are changing their process for the selection of contractors and are including training as a basis for that selection. Don’t get left behind. C3 has seasoned training professionals on staff who can help your company design and develop its craft training program, and its free of charge for C3 Accredited Employers. For more information, please contact C3 Associate Director, Angela Robbins, either by phone at 713.999.1032 or via email at email@example.com.
Someone asked me to write a blog that would focus on how a lack of training would hurt your business and how a skills training program would make your business more robust and make your life easier. I began to think about what that means. Sometimes training is put forth as the magic elixir to cure all your business problems but that isn’t truly what I’ve experienced it during my 28 years as a learning professional. What really happens when a company starts to train is that they go through growing pains and the program can be hard to implement and frustrating to work through, especially if it is the first time. It is just like exercising any muscle that you haven’t used or learning any new skill you desire to acquire. Training takes practice to perfect and like unused muscles, the training process may create some pain along the way. Which may, for some of you, beg the question of why should I even start a training program anyway? My answer would be to tell you a few “what training did for me” stories.
My first story begins with a young man who hurt his knee playing college football and needed a new direction. He liked being outside and, as an athlete, wasn’t afraid of hard work. He went to a temporary agency and started as a laborer with a contractor. His foreman immediately saw his athletics trained work ethic, hired him as a full time employee and trained him. Fast forward a couple decades, a few trades and some hard work. Today, he is leading the craft training program for a national general contractor using his experience as a craftsman, project manager and superintendent. Moral of the story, someone trained him, and that training provided him with a career.
So, maybe that one didn’t sell you on why investing in people pays off. Then, how about this one? A young man sees his dad working hard in the interior and finish trades. When he realizes that his father’s company has taught his father a craft and is providing him a career, the young man realizes that the restaurant where he works is never going to provide that. He decides to move into the interior and finish trades in order to work with his dad. The company trains him. He grows into a quality employee who recruits and helps mentor other young men and women who want to work in the construction trades. He loves his career and the company that trained him to in his craft. His training truly made the difference in his career track.
I could go on and on with many stories that echo the same message. Training creates career paths and career paths attract and help retain high quality employees. There is a joke told by those of us who do “learning for a living”. It goes like this. A CEO and CFO were talking about training. The CFO is complaining about the cost of training and says to the CEO, “Look how much it will cost us to train them and even then, they may still leave.” The CEO responds with, “Yes, but what if we don’t train them and they stay?”
Can your business survive if you do NOT create the training pathway that leads to competent and capable employees who embody the company culture and the core mission of your business? Training that leads to a career path is a critical key to employee retention and loyalty in today’s construction industry facing skilled craft shortages. Training, then, is a major step to a sustainable future for your business.
Ready to consider or start a training program, C3 can help. Need advice on moving your program to the next level, C3 can do that as well. Together we can build great businesses one craft person at a time. For more information reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Construction Career Collaborative (C3) board chairman, Mike Holland, COO of Marek, board members Jerry Lea, Executive Vice President of Hines, Jim Stevenson, immediate past board chair of C3 and President of the Houston Division of McCarthy Building Companies, and I, traveled to Atlanta at the invitation of the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) to address a meeting of its members and to tell the story of C3. What made this opportunity so attractive is that CEFGA sought C3 out because of the progress that we have made in leading the charge to improve workforce development in the craft trades in Houston. Creating a sustainable craft workforce is a problem shared by many companies in the construction industry across the United States and a number of Atlanta based construction companies.
I presented the history of C3, the principles upon which it was founded and a description of C3’s vision of the future of commercial construction as our program is adopted across the industry. Jerry then highlighted C3’s owner-driven strategy to achieve its goal of a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce, and the importance of providing owners with metrics that build a business case to demonstrate the value of a C3 Project. Jim spoke of the influence of the General Contractor with the owner and the importance of that relationship on the C3 process. Mike detailed the requirements to become a C3 Accredited Employer including the importance of an employer-employee relationship as it pertains to the provision of training and a career path. I concluded with details of C3’s safety initiative, specifically detailing the 12 safety modules and the safety metrics of C3 projects which demonstrably illustrate that C3 Projects are indeed safer than the construction industry as a whole across the nation. Our presentation concluded with a description of the critical importance of C3’s strategy to assist companies in the development of their respective craft training initiatives, while linking it to the career paths for their craft workers.
We fielded questions from those in the audience on a number of topics including assuring compliance with C3 principles and potential involvement with organizations such as Construction Industry Institute (CII), Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), Construction Owners Association of America (COAA) and the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER).
It was obvious to the four of us that there was a genuine thirst to learn first hand of C3’s strategy to achieve a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce, so much so that CEFGA is giving strong consideration to bringing the C3 concept to Georgia.
Westfall Constructors Receives Letter of Appreciation from Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
Recently, Cardinal DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, recognized the outstanding work of Westfall Constructors on St. Theresa Catholic Church and School, a C3 project.
You can read Cardinal DiNardo's letter to Westfall Constructors as well as download the letter below.
Congratulations, Westfall Constructors!
In C3’s endeavors to create a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce, we encounter outstanding workforce programs that frequently fly under the radar of construction employers. One of those is United Way of Greater Houston’s THRIVE, which administers a construction workforce initiative entitled Women in Construction.
Before getting into the details of Women in Construction, it is important to understand THRIVE. THRIVE is a financial stability collaborative of more than 20 non-profit partners, community colleges, financial institutions and city and state agencies that teaches under-employed adults the skills necessary to succeed in a new career and in life. The graduates of THRIVE not only learn the skills required in order to be successful in a new profession, but it also teaches them life and financial skills such as developing and managing a budget. Now in its tenth year, THRIVE has helped to place 67,000 families on the path to financial stability.
Women in Construction is a subset of THRIVE that is focused on introducing women to the tremendous opportunities available in the craft trades of the construction industry. While THRIVE is now in its tenth year, Women in Construction is relatively new with just its fifth cohort launching this month.
Once THRIVE identifies a construction company that is seeking to hire new workers, it recruits and screens candidates for that employer to interview. A cohort, or class, of women is then placed through a twelve-week training program that includes the soft skills and craft skills necessary to be successful in life and in a construction career. Frequently, the employer is also eligible to have a major portion of their trainees’ wages paid by governmental agencies in their first several weeks of employment, which will be the subject of a future blog.
There have been two construction companies to date, TD Industries and S&B Engineers and Constructors, which have had cohorts of women graduate from the Women in Construction program. Both of these companies speak glowingly of their experiences with it.
If you are interested in learning more about how THRIVE and Women in Construction program can help your company achieve its recruiting goals, please contact Dorian Cockrell of the United Way of Greater Houston. Dorian can be reached via email at DCockrell@unitedwayhouston.org or by phone at 713.685.2761.
According to a Forbes article published last year, Construction is one of the 10 fastest growing industries in the United States. In fact, according to that article, “seven of the top 10 industries with the highest sales growth rates are related to construction”. In other words, there may never be a better opportunity to be in the construction business than now, which brings me to my point.
According to a recent article in the online publication MarketWatch, “Employers added a net new 23,000 construction jobs in September, the Labor Department said Friday, and the number of people working in the industry was 315,000 higher compared to a year earlier.” The article goes on to say, “At the end of July 2018, there were 273,000 open construction jobs, according to a separate Labor Department report.”
In addition, just last week the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are currently 7,000,000 job openings in this country! Also there are only 6.1 million unemployed in the labor pool. Translated, all industries are competing for talent in a labor pool that has more job openings than people to fill open jobs. Further, those companies in the construction industry who do not provide skills training linked to a career path, who hire independent subcontractors instead of employees, will have an increasingly difficult time competing for talent.
Is your company ready for the growing demand for construction services? Has your company built the foundation required that will enable it to flourish and take advantage of this opportunity? More specifically, what is your company doing to attract and develop its craft workforce? If you are unsure of your answers, Construction Career Collaborative (C3) is here to help you with a formula for developing a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce.
We provide free consulting services to our C3 Accredited Employers to help them seize this new business opportunity. C3 guides its Accredited Employers through the process of identifying the different occupations in a career path of a particular trade, the competencies that must be mastered in each occupation in order for a craft worker to be eligible to move up to the next level of the career path and the training required for each level of competency.
If you, as a company owner or leader, are unsure about going through this process on your own, C3 currently has eight peer groups of leaders in common trades that meet quarterly to work together and share best practices. Some C3 peer groups are even sharing best practices on how to the convert from a workforce of independent subcontractors to a workforce of employees.
If you, or someone from your organization, would like to learn more, please contact C3 Associate Director, Angela Robbins, at (713) 999-1032 or by email at email@example.com.
Don’t get left behind. C3 is here to help create a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce for your company and the commercial construction industry. C3.Is.How.
 “Construction hiring is booming, and there are plenty of available jobs”, MarketWatch, October 8, 2018
 United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 18-1875, November 6, 2018
Chief Operating Officer
Bundren Painting and Drywall
As a commercial painting and drywall company, we are consistently striving to learn new things and to develop a sustainable process for investing in our future workforce. Having been in business since 1984, our company has evolved, grown and seen many changes and substantial improvements in the construction industry including the relentless drive towards safety and technology. Amidst all the new designs, processes, technology, media, equipment and product evolution; the backbone for making everything work seamlessly is a well-trained and career-oriented craftsman who knows that the company they are a part of truly wants them to achieve great things. The increase of technology and lack of skilled workers over the last few decades required us to rethink the old ways and to begin investing in our employees’ personal and professional growth.
Our journey had begun! As a company, we were on our way to new and exciting territory. Three years ago, we held a strategic planning meeting in our conference room that set the stage for creating a lasting training program within our company. The intention of that program was to elevate the skill set of our workers by recognizing that a skilled and safe craft worker was an asset to our company and the community. We also noted that the entire industry suffers from a growing skilled labor shortage that has increased over time. We learned that to grow and sustain our workforce, we would have to up our game and establish a viable recruiting and training program. At that moment, we had no idea where this change would take us through a journey of simultaneously reinventing our company and dramatically increasing our ability to create deeper relationships with our industry, clients, and most of all, with our employees. Some of the brainstorming ideas from those initial sessions were white-boarded, cataloged, redesigned, tested and prioritized over the following year. The foundation was set, and even the slight improvements were immediately noticeable in our workforce attitude and performance.
Fast forward a year and a half. We joined C3 for the pilot of the craft training endorsement program. We immediately saw the parallels in the C3 program and our original intentions. We also saw the massive benefit that was offered by being a member of C3. The baseline metrics we were planning to measure were already being developed by our peers and acted on in our market. This C3 movement that we are now a part of promised to be a serious and dedicated challenge for us to implement in the beginning. The commitment to our core values and mission continue to drive us to get better every day and the C3 process is helping make that change possible. The ability for our team to join C3 and become something greater than our current company, to continually learn and contribute was exactly what we needed for Bundren to go to the next level. C3 is how we create a sustainable workforce.
We designed our training program for skilled craftworkers and then we re-designed it again and again. Currently, we have pilot tested numerous versions of our training programs one piece at a time and when we proved they worked as expected, we rolled out the change to our field and management personnel. We capitalized on our relationships with manufacturers and vendors. We began to capture and implement sourced information that was relevant to our plan and that added immediate and lasting value to our employees and our company. Throughout this on-going process, we are consistently adapting, overcoming obstacles, assessing the pros and cons of what we were going to implement, and reinforcing our core intention of having the best trained, most capable professional employees and craftworkers who go home safe to their families every night knowing they are part of something bigger and that they have a career with Bundren. As we continue to evolve this process, one thing has become very clear; we needed resources and partnerships that we had never had access to or thought we needed in the past. C3 is how we learned about the possibilities and the solutions that we want to achieve in the future for our company and for the industry.
After having our first pilot meeting with the Construction Career Collaborative, we had questions, concerns and most of all, an even bigger desire to be a part of this program as it aligned perfectly with our intended path. C3 opened their resources to us and through that association we have been able to collaborate with our clients and peers to make an impressive impact on the commercial construction industry here in the Houston market. Without an abundant amount of resources and shared desire of C3 and its member companies to elevate the level of craftworkers in the construction industry, our industry will continue to suffer from that lack of skilled craftsmen.
This is where C3 shines above most other craftworker organizations we have been a part of. The collective push to deliver quality requires a commitment to develop those individuals who possess raw talent or to attract and retain craftsmen that are looking for something more than a paycheck. The investment in these employees starts the minute you officially hire them. At that moment, as a company, we are dedicating time and resources to building a career path within our company for a construction professional that we hope will be an active member of our company and remain with us for a very long time to build a skillset and grow personally and professionally.
While overcoming obstacles and finding opportunity in all we do, this C3 challenge has been one of the most rewarding processes we have embarked on. We believe that the future of our company and our industry has to consistently evolve and change for the better in order to remain viable. Having the confidence in the fact that our journey is integral to elevating the level of our craftworker and instilling pride at all levels of our company offers its own reward. As more and more owners and contractors are raising the bar alongside us, C3 projects will be completed by skilled craftworkers and we can achieve a higher level of quality together. The ultimate result will be a better industry that can capitalize on technology and processes, to provide safe and consistent projects with forecasted results. As we at Bundren continue our journey, we will continue to share our story and invite any individual, company or owner to reach out to C3 to see what we are all about, and how we can bring value to your projects.
At Bundren, our company motto is, “We are in the business of building partnerships” and our goals and objectives are there for our workforce as well as for our clients. We believe that creating well trained craftsmen and offering a career path builds a partnership within an organization and across an industry. We are committed to the C3 process and to the success of our peers in the industry.
From Dirty, Dangerous and Dead-End to Safe, Skilled and Sustainable - Changing the Perception of Construction Careers
According to Meredith Watassek, Director of Career and Technical Education at Fort Bend Independent School District, “A sustainable workforce starts by educating the middle and high school student and their parents and counselors to the viable career options in construction and other career and technical trades.” Construction Career Collaborative and our Accredited Employers realize that Meredith is absolutely correct. It has motivated C3 companies, Vaughn Construction and TRIO Electric, to create programs that bring high school students to construction sites in Houston to experience the industry first hand while working a summer job. TRIO, a specialty contractor, and Vaughn, a general contractor, have different needs and have designed different programs but each one has the intended outcome of creating more interest and enthusiasm in young workers for a career in the commercial construction industry.
TRIO, a merit shop electrical contractor, has developed a strong relationship with multiple school districts across the state where there are Career and Technical Education programs. The long-term vision of the school relationship is two-fold. The first benefit is for the school district. As CTE programs are returning to school’s they need industry input and guidance to create highly engaging and industry relevant curriculums. As the industry advocate for Spring Branch ISD’s electrical program, TRIO created the TRIO Pre-Apprenticeship Program (TPAP), a DOL approved pre-apprenticeship program that teaches students how to be safe, productive and skilled electricians as well as other employable and soft skills needed in the construction industry. The pre-apprenticeship program is available to Spring Branch students starting their Junior year and fulfills the 144 hours of related classroom instruction recommended by the DOL. TRIO hopes that as students complete the program it solidifies their resolve and desire to join the construction industry, specifically to join TRIO’s Apprenticeship Program (TAP) offered at TRIO after graduation. The pre-apprenticeship program provides TRIO with a more robust pipeline of potential electricians and gives students an opportunity to learn more about a career in the construction field. TRIO’s president, Beau Pollock, said, “The relationship with Spring Branch has yielded great results and is being emulated in other school districts. Unless we (the construction industry) are getting in front of these kids, their parents and guidance counselors, construction is going to continue to be viewed as dirty, dangerous and dead-end. We have to create a different experience for them if we intend to change the way construction is perceived.”
For Vaughn Construction, a general contractor, the process of recruiting and exposing high school students to the construction trades looks different. Knowing that they would have to create a unique program, Vaughn designed and implemented the Student Training Employment Program (STEP). The program is a short-term summer employment opportunity for high school students who have reached the age of 17 and will be returning to high school for their senior year in the fall or are permanently joining the workforce. The program is not a student-learner program or apprenticeship program like the TRIO offering. Instead it is a short-term employment opportunity that provides structure for the young employee to learn from a mentor and be exposed to a variety of construction trade specific work opportunities. The opportunities range from clerical work to rough carpentry and steel reinforcement. Additionally, training is provided at the beginning of employment around safety, housekeeping, and hazard awareness. By assigning the high school employees to jobsite mentors, Vaughn is able to assess the student’s ability and desire to pursue more work in the construction trades. This feedback is provided at the end of the 90-day work assignment. Vaughn’s CEO, Tom Vaughn “believes the STEP program is a good way to start bring on high school students,” and that the “benefits reach farther than the student and Vaughn by creating a stronger image of our industry as a viable choice for a successful career.”
C3 companies are working had to create opportunities in our industry that advance all of us. To learn more about exciting work taking place to connect high school CTE programs with C3 companies or to join the journey toward creating an image of construction as safe, skilled and sustainable career option, contact Angela Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713.999.1032. Be part of the solution. C3 is how.
Construction Industry Institute (CII)
Construction Users Roundtable (CURT)
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)