Nearly ten years ago, a group of leaders in the Houston commercial construction industry met to discuss its biggest future challenge, an aging and diminishing craft workforce. Baby Boomers were (and still are) reaching retirement age at the rate of 10,000 people each day, and the construction trades were not attracting young talent to replenish them. In short, what was once a healthy, sustainable craft workforce was no longer. The construction industry was losing the battle for talent to other industries whose workforce practices were perceived as providing better opportunities and a brighter future.
When these leaders examined the underlying cause of the issue, they realized that the human resources practices that originally created a skilled and sustainable craft workforce had largely vanished. Many companies had severed the employer-employee relationship, which eliminated traditional employee benefits as well as Social Security, Medicare and state and federal unemployment tax benefits. Craft workers were being paid as independent subcontractors. The provision of skills training had ceased, and as a result, construction career paths had all but ended.
From this meeting sprung the idea of the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), a diverse organization of owners (those who purchase construction services), general contractors, specialty contractors, industry trade organizations and design professionals whose goal is to create a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce. Foundational to this organization are three core principles – proper human resource practices, the pursuit, development and adoption of the best construction-industry safety standards and skills training linked to construction career paths.
Fast forward to today and C3 has made significant strides forward in all three of these areas of focus. Much of the industry has recognized the importance of the employer-employee relationship and how it relates to the development of its craft workforce. Rarely will a company invest in the training of a craft worker who is not its employee. These companies also recognize that they cannot compete for talent in a job market with unemployment rates below 4% without the competitive human resource practices that C3 prescribes.
These competitive practices include safety standards that enable craft workers to return home safely at the end of each work day. C3 requires that each craft worker on a C3 jobsite earn an OSHA 10 safety credential and their supervisors earn an OSHA 30 safety credential. In fact, we believe that C3 projects may be the only ones in the USA, in the commercial construction industry, where all workers meet this standard. Additionally, in just 29 months, there have been 94,746 attendees in C3 Safety Refresher Training, which consists of 12 training modules, delivered once per month, and specific to commercial construction. This training and certification translates into a safer working environment that is exemplified by an aggregate Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) on C3 projects of .86, 300% better than the national average for all non-residential construction in this country as measured by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Finally, and maybe the most critical measure of C3’s progress towards a goal of building a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce, is the rapidly growing number of companies investing in and developing their craft training programs. These companies know that trained, skilled workers are not only safer workers, but they produce high quality work, and more of it, in less time with less rework and less supervision resulting in higher employee morale, lower employee turnover, growing sales revenue and higher profit margins. To date, 173 companies, both general contractors and specialty contractors, have enrolled in the C3 Craft Training Endorsement Program, and 60 of these companies have earned a coveted C3 Craft Training Endorsement. In fact, we believe that there is a strong possibility that 100 companies will achieve an endorsement by year end.
It should not go without mention that the C3 training team is consulting with many of the above-referenced companies to guide them through the development of their respective craft training initiatives. This is a critical component of the C3 formula because we recognize that a large number of construction companies do not have an HR/Training Department. As a result, they may not have the expertise or “know how” to develop and deliver craft skills training and link it to construction career paths. C3 does, and we are sharing that knowledge with C3 Accredited Employers, free of charge!
In closing, some numbers that illustrate C3’s growing success and influence within the commercial construction industry in the Houston region since its inception:
If you and your company have not yet engaged with C3, contact us. Just as we are helping other construction companies, we can help yours too. Getting involved with C3 could prove to be one of the wisest business decisions you have ever made.
Key C3 Contacts
Associate Director – People Development, Compliance and Operations
As the 2018-2019 school year closes and we watch the first wave of craft workers hired from a C3 Career Fair enter the workforce as they move beyond graduation, I am reminded how life is full of milestones and moments that mark our progress. These milestones are important. They mark the significant achievements along our path.
C3, with its mission of creating a safe, skilled and sustainable craft workforce, has reached some major milestones and has a few more on the horizon. Twenty C3 projects have been successfully completed. Twenty more are under construction, or about to begin, with several more in the pipeline. We are closing in on 400 participating construction companies. June will mark a milestone with 50 construction companies that have earned a valuable C3 Craft Training Endorsement, a number that we expect to reach 100 by year end and well before C3 reaches its 10-year anniversary in 2020. These are some great milestones because together we are doing great things.
Milestones also serve to remind us the C3 mission isn’t yet complete. “Even after implementing training and raising the bottom line (through return on training investment), we still get value from C3. We are not finished. We’re still growing.”, remarks Art Canales, President, Chamberlin Roofing & Waterproofing. Art is right. We are not finished, and we are still growing, but there is still much more work to do.
You might be wondering what is next for C3. We are rapidly deploying to meet the need of a rising population of companies seeking to create new and better training programs for craft professionals. We are partnering with schools, community-based organizations and local and state workforce boards to educate potential skilled workers on the benefits of a career as a craft professional in commercial construction. We are leveraging C3 programs and creating new ones to change the perception of construction as a sustainable career choice to provide a quality lifestyle for craft professionals and their families.
C3 is growing and chances are your business is as well. Join us on this next chapter of C3’s journey. Engage with us to create stronger on-the-job competency-based training programs. Share our complimentary safety programs with your workforce and peers. Play golf with us at our annual tournament in October. Partner with like-minded companies to educate students and parents about the myriad of opportunities a career in the skilled trades offers. Join us as we move forward to elevate the playing field and create a sustainable craft workforce driven to be the safest and most skilled for Houston’s future. We are changing the commercial construction industry.
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
Construction Industry Institute (CII)
Construction Users Roundtable (CURT)
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)