Raising the Bar

Bryant Black

Director, Workforce Development
Greater Houston Partnership

​As most readers of this blog are aware, the ultimate vision for C3 is the creation of a sustainable and credentialed craft workforce for the commercial construction industry.  In short, commercial construction is not attracting young people in near enough numbers to replace those who are leaving it for reasons such as retirement.  C3 was created to address this challenge, and we have begun to gain traction.  As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to reflect on the progress that C3 has made and look forward to 2016.

This year has seen C3 take marked strides forward in this long and complex journey.  Among the highlights are the robust growth among its ranks of owners, contractors and specialty contractors, the addition of several new projects that specify C3 requirements in their project specifications, the hiring of Maria Aimone as C3 Operations Manager and the launch of the new C3 Training Database.

C3 now counts 87 contractors and specialty contractors among its Accredited Employers, and we are growing at a steady clip.  These companies recognize that in order to attract young people to a career in commercial construction that we must start by making that career attractive once again.  These construction companies subscribe to the C3 principles of financial health and well being of the craft worker, safety training and craft training.  They pledge:

  • To pay their craft workers by the hour, including overtime pay when it is earned
  • To provide workers compensation insurance
  • To provide safety training
    • OSHA 10 card for craft workers
    • OSHA 30 card for all on-site supervisory personnel
  • To support the development and delivery of craft training

C3’s strategy to establish a sustainable craft workforce is owner driven.  In 2015, C3 gained the support of owners such as Memorial Hermann Healthcare Systems, Museum of Fine Arts-Houston and internationally acclaimed developer Hines with large projects such as Memorial Hermann’s $600M Texas Medical Center expansion and MFAH’s $400M expansion.  Honestly, the only thing keeping Hines from having a C3 project is the slow down in the oil & gas industry.

In addition to the projects listed above, Texas Children’s Hospital launched its third C3 project in 2015 with its Pediatric Tower Expansion in the Texas Medical Center.  This project includes the addition of 14 floors onto an existing hospital building.  However, C3 projects are not always large, multi-story buildings as exemplified by the new interiors construction for Zachry Industrial, a one-floor project located on the Sam Houston Toll Way, which was completed in October.  Looking ahead to 2016, C3 has additional projects on the horizon with three of those coming from M.D. Anderson Cancer Centers.

Very importantly, C3 made a key hire in the spring when Maria Aimone joined the team as its Operations Manager.  Maria brings with her a broad range of industry experience with organizations such as Linbeck, Spaw Maxwell, Broaddus, Sigma Marble & Granite and, most recently, Skanska.

One of Maria’s primary responsibilities is to work with the C3 Training Database, which was redeveloped and launched in October.  This database provides a registry to confidentially house the credentials of all craft workers of C3 employers.  The database enables C3 to be certain that each craft worker has an OSHA card, that their employer, when working on a C3 project, properly registers them to it, which in turn enables C3 to verify that those craft workers are paid as hourly employees as required.

These simple requirements are the first steps to making a career in the commercial construction industry attractive to young people once again in order to re-establish a sustainable craft workforce.  In addition, and very importantly, the compliance checks described above level the playing field for all specialty contractors as they pursue new business, which ceases the practice of forcing them to compete to the lowest common denominator in order to win new work thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle that causes an unsustainable craft workforce to begin with.  Envision a trained and credentialed craft workforce that produces high quality work, which requires fewer employees who produce more, with less waste, thereby elevating craft wages and re-establishing a craft career as an excellent path to a middle class way of life.

Other goals for C3 in 2016 include the development and delivery of craft training, the attraction of more owners to the C3 mission who specify C3 criteria in their contract documents, continued robust growth in the number of C3 Accredited Employers and, finally, participation in more career fairs to interest people in craft careers.

Ultimately, C3 will have achieved its mission of creating a sustainable craft workforce when its principles become an expected business practice rather than an exceptional business practice thereby making construction craft careers attractive once again.

If your company has yet to pursue C3 Accredited Employer status, I encourage you to do so today.  Help to raise the bar for the commercial construction industry by making C3 principles a basic expectation of performance.

Chuck Gremillion

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