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Houston City Council Considering $7M Training Facility for Construction Workers

Aerial plans for the  Bush Intercontinental Terminal B redesign which broke ground in '11

Aerial plans for the Bush Intercontinental Terminal B redesign which broke ground in ’11

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Houston has experienced a massive construction boom which has spread the cream of the worker crop quite thin, according to some contractors.  So with multiple projects ongoing and upcoming at the region’s airports, the Houston Airport Authority (HAA) has decided to take a proactive approach by planning a construction training facility at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  The city council will vote on the proposed $7.1 million training facility, dubbed the “Houston Area Construction Collective.” It would be coordinated by the Houston Community College, San Jacinto College, and the Lone Star College Systems.  

An HAA statement intimates that the impact of the facility will be widespread:

“The proposed training center would benefit any current designated capital project – like the international terminal project currently under construction at Hobby Airport – and any future HAS designated capital project – like the new international terminal project coming to Bush airport.”

The facility would be built in an existing warehouse at Bush Intercontinental and is being touted as a long-term cost-saving measure that would also boost safety training. The airport hopes this element will lower insurance costs and reduce injuries.  

The bill for the facility will be paid by the Houston Airport System (HAS), but contractors working on other jobs could pay to have their workers train there as well.  Melissa Gonzalez, Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development at Lone Star College, said that “courses will include various skill training, from plumbing to pipe fitting and electrician work, to serve both airport employees and the community.”  

There is some concern, however, that training capabilties are already sufficient, but that not everyone is willing to admit that fact. Unions and schools in the area, for instance, have a long history of training workers in this manner:

Paul Puente, executive secretary of the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, agreed there is a demand now and into the foreseeable future for workers.

He said workforce training courses are typically a good thing, particularly if safety and first-aid courses are included. Yet, he said, community colleges and union apprenticeships already provide training for craftsmen, and he said it takes time to become fully trained.

He suggested the training did not have to be at the expense of the taxpayers, as tax money already pays for community colleges.

“A lot of those types of training programs already exist,” he said.

But Gonzalez told the Houston Chronicle her outfit is thrilled about the prospect”

“There is a huge need, especially in the construction industry, for these positions. We are helping to fill that need. They are providing a training facility and we are more than happy to help them train their workers.”


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