Guest Blog by
Senior Vice President of Regional Workforce Development
Greater Houston Partnership, UpSkill Houston
Our city’s craft professionals have built Houston – a global city and a city of opportunity. Through C3’s innovative work, the industry continues to create a more sustainable and skilled craft workforce that is essential for the industry and our city. After disasters, the region’s construction industry steps up, leads, and rebuilds the city – making it better and more resilient.
The COVID-19 pandemic, its economic downturn, and events of 2020 have been challenging for our region, yet they provide an opportunity for us to come together and make Houston stronger while creating economic opportunities for our residents. During months of uncertainty, many commercial projects were put on hold, delayed, or suspended. Craft professionals, however, were on the front line during the pandemic, continuing the work of completing projects and improving their skills. We also know that companies who invested in their employees during this time will have greater flexibility and agility in a rapidly changing economy.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, many Houstonians were displaced from their jobs and many young people who graduated from high school did not pursue post-secondary education. By current estimates, there are more than 200,000 unemployed individuals in the region. The employment effects of the pandemic have disproportionately impacted low-income families, women, and communities of color. The data also indicate individuals with low levels of educational attainment (i.e., less than a four-year college degree) will face significant challenges finding pathways back into the workforce. As a result of the pandemic, many of these displaced individuals and young people will struggle to climb the economic ladder as they face limited opportunities for good jobs.
In my work with construction leaders over the last several years, it is clear the construction industry has invented one of the most powerful social programs of all – a good job as a craft professional. While government can create an enabling infrastructure, it doesn’t create jobs or ensure opportunity. The private sector, through our free enterprise system, creates jobs and supports a growing economy and shared prosperity. Houston’s construction sector has provided economic opportunity for many years by employing and upskilling many of our residents.
In the past, construction firms have partnered with United Way of Greater Houston’s THRIVE network and Gulf Coast Workforce Solutions to screen, prepare and support new pipelines of talent into the industry (e.g., Women in Construction, Work Faith Connection, SER Jobs, Houston Area Urban League). Through the industry’s commitment to upskilling, many of these individuals have thrived and prospered as craft professionals. Building off this previous success, we can work together and connect the dots with community-based organizations and workforce partners that collectively engage with, support and train low-income families, women, communities of color, and young adults.
If we take this opportunity to partner in new ways and at scale (with employers, community partners, and others), we can create new and more diverse talent pipelines by preparing Houston residents with the skills for success in the construction industry. As Houston’s economy begins its recovery and continues its expansion, the construction industry can play a vital role in helping Houston and its residents get back on track.
Peter Beard serves as senior vice president of Regional Workforce Development at the Greater Houston Partnership and leads its UpSkill Houston initiative.
Construction Industry Institute (CII)
Construction Users Roundtable (CURT)
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)