Texas is booming with new construction and renovations of all sorts. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused some projects to pause or slow down, plenty of work pushed ahead.
Building trades unions in Texas are increasing their market share and taking advantage of the abundance of work. Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Paul Puente joined AWF to discuss the building boom and how union affiliated contractors are helping to train the next generation of tradesmen and tradeswomen.
Construction along the Gulf Coast
The Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council covers Harris county, the home to Houston and 19 other counties. Within those counties there are 24 affiliated building trades unions.
Puente said while work is good in Texas and people and companies are flocking to the state, there was a slight slow down at the beginning of the pandemic while the situation was assessed. However, as proper personal protective equipment and vaccinations became available, projects picked back up and people returned to work.
In terms of local political support, Puente said it is difficult to build outside of the Houston metropolitan area, as state and federal politicians representing Texas have attacked unions for decades.
However, they have proved their work throughout the area. Projects such as Minute Maid Park, much of the work at the University of Houston and Texas Southern University have gone the way of the building trades. They are also trusted with much of the local hospital work.
Increasing apprenticeship opportunity
In order to meet the demand for the influx of work, more resources are being used to better train apprentices. Online learning capabilities were developed and embraced for some portions of the registered apprenticeship program, while much of the learning is done in a hands-on manner.
Safety training has been taken up a notch. These programs have adapted to teach tradesmen and tradeswomen how to work with infectious diseases present, a product of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, Puente said one of the most important teaching points is financial literacy. He said it is important to understand that construction is cyclical. While work is good now, Puente encourages apprentices to learn about saving money in order to weather the drop offs.