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Houston’s Craft Workforce: Are We On The Verge Of Insanity?

The following article was originally published on BuildHoustonOnline.

Are some of Houston’s leading construction firms crazy or insane in their approaches to attract and train quality entry-level craft workers? Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

S&B Engineers and Constructors, Jacobs, Trio Electric and Marek Bros. are getting very different results because of new and innovative approaches they are using for pre-employment screening and training. If we work together as an industry, we have the opportunity over the next 12 to 18 months to re-invent our entry-level talent pipeline by using innovative pre-employment programs and by cultivating the more than 5,000 high school students enrolled in CMEF sponsored programs across the region.

Jacobs partnered with Lee College and Workforce Solutions to screen and train 19 entry-level helpers over six weeks and had a near 100 percent success in the training and hiring of those students. S&B partnered with United Way THRIVE and had a success rate of 80 percent for its three-month Women in Construction program for pipefitter helpers. Trio Electric has developed an apprenticeship program with Spring Branch ISD, KIPP, YES, HCC and BakerRipley to attract recent high school graduates and underemployed workers seeking careers as electricians.

Students who complete the two- to four-week pre-employment training course earn the NCCER core and OSHA-10 credentials. The training curriculum, developed in partnership with McKinsey’s Generation program, focuses on critical technical skills and mindsets that are essential for success in construction. Students learn about various construction crafts and receive support and coaching to prepare resumes and interview. The training also builds the growth mindset that ensures students model and understand success in construction requires persistent growth and training.

In addition to innovative pre-employment training, we need to focus on the youth population by engaging and partnering with CMEF and the more than 40 high schools operating construction training programs. With more than 5,000 high school students enrolled in CMEF sponsored programs, we need to be proactive in attracting these students to commercial and industrial construction and supporting them as they transition into the industry.

If you are up for getting a different result and improving the talent in construction, here are five things you can do:

  1. Sign-up to participate in UpSkill Houston’s brief survey to project near-term demand (9 to 12 months) for entry-level helper positions;
  2. Sign-up to participate in the UpSkill Houston pre-employment training effort and agree to interview graduates for your entry-level helper openings;
  3. Have your employees volunteer at school career fairs to help students and teachers learn about the exciting opportunities in construction;
  4. Participate in CMEF’s Construction Careers Youth Committee to promote and support Construction Industry workforce education at public schools; and
  5. Participate in CMEF’s Construction Careers Expo that introduces high school students to basic craft skills and career opportunities in the construction industry.


To get involved or learn about UpSkill Houston, contact [email protected].
To participate in CMEF’s Construction Careers Youth Committee, contact S. Horton at [email protected].

About The Author:

Peter Beard is the SVP for Regional Workforce Development at the Greater Houston Partnership. He oversees UpSkill Houston—an unprecedented industry-led collaboration—that is working to close the skills gap in the industry sectors critical to Houston’s regional economy. For more information about UpSkill Houston, go to the website or email Peter at [email protected].