Expert: Addressing skilled labor needs in Houston — including the role technology plays

Proactively engaging in advocating for opportunities within the industry across all job levels is essential to guaranteeing a consistent influx of skilled workers, meeting the growing construction demands of both our state and nation. Photo via Getty Images

The construction industry in the U.S. is experiencing a substantial demand for skilled workers. There are over 438,000 job openings, and this demand is projected to increase, aiming to attract over half a million workers to meet the upcoming labor needs.

The urgency is heightened as a significant percentage — more than 40 percent — of the existing workforce is expected to retire within the next eight years.

To top it off, Texas is the fastest growing state with more than nine million new residents between 2000 and 2022. With a growing population, the requirement for robust infrastructure, encompassing various sectors like transportation, health care, education, and residential development, continues to escalate. Encouraging careers in construction among the younger generation becomes vital for everyone, no matter their industry, to meet these demands and bridge the deepening skills gap.

Viable Career Path: Attracting the next wave of construction talent involves dispelling misconceptions about the industry. Many young individuals might not realize the breadth of opportunities available in construction beyond traditional manual labor. I personally gained interest and experience in the industry at a young age before navigating through a few IT careers, and then landed back in construction and worked my way up, which exemplifies the diverse career paths within the industry.

Education and training play a pivotal role in molding the future workforce. Highlighting that formal education isn't the sole path to success, apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs emerge as excellent alternatives, providing hands-on learning experiences while earning a wage. Collaborating with educational institutions and organizations at an early stage can introduce students to the industry's diverse career avenues.

As with every industry, diversity encourages innovation. Business leaders who intentionally recruit from underrepresented groups, including women and minorities, within the industry will reap countless benefits.

Innovative Technologies: Showcasing the innovative and technological aspects of the industry, such as precision tools, drone technology, AI, and virtual reality, underscores the creative and forward-thinking nature of construction careers. The construction industry continues to evolve and become technologically advanced. The need for cutting-edge individuals who possess construction skills with an understanding of technical innovations will transform the industry.

Stability: Highlighting the industry’s stability, competitive compensation, and the promising opportunities for career growth can further attract potential candidates. Advocating for stringent safety measures and emphasizing the importance of sustainable building practices introduces an added layer of social responsibility, capturing the attention of those committed to ensuring a secure work environment.

Ultimately, the collective efforts of the current workforce and today’s business leaders are pivotal in addressing the imminent skills gap that stands to affect us all. Proactively engaging in advocating for opportunities within the industry across all job levels is essential to guaranteeing a consistent influx of skilled workers, meeting the growing construction demands of both our state and nation.

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Randy Pitre serves as the vice president of operations for Skanska USA Building’s North Texas and Houston building operations.

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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