BY JOSH CARSON TEXO FOUNDATION BOARD CHAIR & PROJECT EXECUTIVE, MOSS & ASSOCIATES
The DFW Metroplex growth and economic prosperity have been widely covered over the years, and thanks to this booming economy, the population is growing at a pace that is fueling our industry. With new residents, homes and schools need to be built, as well as hospitals, offices, restaurants, and retail. All this opportunity is wonderful as it fuels new jobs, creates new businesses, and allows existing companies to grow. However, one of the biggest challenges then presents itself – who is going to fill these new jobs?
The US Bureau of Labor published statistics in May 2019 showing that the DFW Metroplex was the second-fastest growing metroplex, right behind Phoenix and just ahead of Houston. This presents a unique secondary challenge: the state of Texas has two of the top three economies in the country. Albeit the study didn’t reference Austin or San Antonio, many of our TEXO members would say these two economies are booming similarly, making Texas the land of opportunity if you are looking for a career in the construction industry. Still, we only have so many candidates to fill new jobs in the state, so we have to double down our efforts to recruit anyone and everyone we can train and safely put to work in our businesses.
In January at the TEXO Board of Directors meeting, a group of 50 people from the construction industry in North Texas met to discuss the upcoming year and key challenges in our industry to focus on. Through the day-long strategic planning session, there was one very clear and consistent theme – workforce development. This is not a foreign concept to us at the TEXO Foundation, a 501(c)(3) focused solely on workforce development for the construction industry. We have been developing and growing our board and committees to help tackle this issue, and these efforts are paying dividends.
A QUICK RECAP OF THE TEXO FOUNDATION
Originally setup in the 1980s to help recruit college students to the TEXO membership region of North Texas, the focus stayed on that for over 30 years. Coming out of the economic downturn in the late 2000s, a new challenged emerged. Our college committee had been doing a great job creating networks to draw college graduates from the region to the DFW Metroplex, but that wasn’t helping build our skilled labor workforce. It was time to evolve and create what we have unofficially called “TEXO Foundation 2.0.” If we wanted to continue to drive the economy and provide high quality employment to workers in our region, we had to go find them and teach them about our industry. In 2016, we officially launched a new effort for the TEXO Foundation, which included a full board of directors intentionally comprised of general contractors, trade partners, and industry professionals. We developed a new mission statement: To educate, recruit, train and retain the next generation of construction professionals. We laid the groundwork to grow the college committee and create high school and community committees to widen the net we were casting. We were ready to help fuel this growth and our industry, which was and is desperate for employees.
Over the past few years, the college committee has stayed focused on its core activities while strategically growing its geographic presence and influence. The core initiatives are grants, scholarships, the TEXO|ASC Region 5 Student Competition, and our Building Knowledge Conference (formerly known as the Educators Conference). This evolution has been fueled by Kevin Carey, vice president with Dynamic Glass. Kevin is the College Committee Chairman, and his leadership has taken the Foundation beyond its traditional four-state region. Kevin believed that to get the brightest and best college graduates to North Texas, we had to build relationships with the top construction programs across the country. With over 50 educators represented now, the BKC (Building Knowledge Conference) welcomes educators from across the country, giving them the chance to learn and interact with industry leadership right here in DFW. This event has doubled in size over the last two years and is poised for more growth and influence in 2019! This year, the Foundation provided over $25,000 in grants and over $35,000 in scholarships. And in its biggest year ever, the student competition hosted over 30 teams and 225 students in February, including teams from Australia, the UK, and Ireland. Two of the notable grants have gone to the University of Oklahoma in 2018 and have produced a workforce salary comparison calculator, as well as a set of 10 curriculum boxes for our volunteers to use with middle and high schools to teach basic construction concepts with the intent of engaging students early and piquing interest in our industry.
HIGH SCHOOL COMMITTEE
Originally developed as a TEXO committee, the Foundation adopted the Workforce Development group and rebranded it as the High School Committee with E.J. Guvenator of Humphrey & Associates as chairman. With his leadership, the group has gone from a few people to a bustling committee engaged in over 6 local high schools with advisory councils and working through an exciting Tiny Home initiative. Now, Kris Richardson with TDIndustries is stepping up as the committee chair, and we are looking to continue the success through 2019 and beyond. We have a tremendous partnership with Wilmer Hutchins, a Dallas ISD high school, and are working alongside educators to help provide curriculum, training, and exposure to construction to a promising group of students who are finding a future career opportunity when they may not have had that available to them before. Recently, we have partnered with Apple to develop high school educators’ seminars to help train and expose teachers and administration to how technology is being implemented in construction to help increase efficiency and drive safety and communication. Our recent event was hosted in Arlington, where over 30 high schools enjoyed a day of learning and concluded with a tour of the new home of the Rangers, Globe Life Field. In 2018, we started a Tiny Home program in several high schools and successfully completed two structures. For this fall, we are partnering with Operation Tiny Home, who will provide materials and plans to the high schools. With some donations of services such as electrical and plumbing, we will build several tiny homes for veterans that Operation Tiny Home supports.
Our most recent and potentially largest committee launched in 2019 with Russell Jumper, partner with Gray Reed, leading the efforts. The initial target is to build partnerships and connect existing agencies, non-profits, or companies to help recruit veterans, those returning to work, second chance workforce, and anyone we can help provide a rewarding career within our industry. The committee is still forming its target initiatives, but we have partnered early with the Dallas Regional Chamber to evaluate workforce development needs in the Metroplex. They have been extraordinarily engaged and helpful with hosting meetings and providing data and thought leadership, while helping connect us with regional organizations that can either benefit from or support our initiative. This committee is poised to grow in 2020 and beyond and looks to make a significant impact in the near future.
TO SUM UP
We are just a couple years into the TEXO Foundation 2.0 but are as excited and encouraged as we have ever been to help move the needle for our industry. Our three committees and board of directors are constantly reevaluating and redirecting our efforts to pivot to help find our next generation of workforce. We believe this is the best industry in the world with the best people to build a career and a company around. We look forward to serving our North Texas region and providing a bright future to the constructors of the future. If you are excited to learn more or volunteer in one of our many opportunities, please reach out to TEXO Foundation at [email protected].