The Houston Area Urban League (HAUL) was founded in 1910 and worked to secure economic rights to African Americans. Now, the organization offers five programs to help residents in economically disadvantaged areas: Education and Youth Development, Workforce and Economic Development, Workforce Training, Housing, and Health and Wellness Initiatives.
HAUL has programs in place to help people search for jobs and work in a career field that interests them. They have helped many get started in the construction industry and work toward a successful and long-lasting career. HAUL introduces NCCER curriculum to job-seeking adults to get them started on high wage careers, regardless of their background. Here are three stories about how a veteran, woman and former corrections inmate found their career in construction.
Alex Chen, Architecture
Alex Chen served the military as a foreman while deployed in Iraq in 2007. While overseas, he helped build outposts, living quarters and mortar resistant roofs. Eventually, he began helping Machine Gun Security produce combat operation, general services and foreman-based work for U.S. soldiers.
After graduating from college with an economics and political science degree in 2012, Alex moved back to Houston. In Houston, he began working for an oil and gas company where he ensured projects were getting completed and workers were working efficiently.
Unfortunately, the oil prices dropping effected his employment. As Alex continued to apply for jobs in construction, he decided to make himself more marketable and worked toward getting a certification.
Chen walked into the Workforce Solutions division of HAUL and applied to get into the NCCER Occupational Skills Training. Working through the training, Chen studied textbooks and read blueprints, beam graphs and anchor points. He learned how to read industry-made drawings and learned specialized safety information.
“Right after I received my certification, I drafted a proposal for a local church construction project and won the bid,” Chen said. “Now, I have been picking up steam and the projects are slowly picking up. In the long run, my mission is to build affordable housing for ordinary families. Prices are escalating, and it is difficult to find residential homes that are not priced out. The opportunities ahead are limitless.”
Antresia Hall, Safety Attendant
Working at the Harris County Sheriff’s department when her new addition to the family arrived, Antresia Hall thought that getting a job as a police officer would be easy with her criminal justice background. However, she wasn’t getting the reponse she was looking for and after six applications, two interviews and zero job offers – she began to look into other industries.
After connecting with a staffing company, Antresia began working in a pipe yard. Instantly, she was drawn to the industry “because of the potential to earn a higher wage and to move into different roles to gain experience.” She began to learn whenever she could. Soon, a piper inspector to work with her and helped her find training sessions to learn more about the craft.
Wanting to move up in the field, she reached out to HAUL. When Antresia walked into the building, she saw workers signing people up for NCCER training. After speaking with the business developer, she “decided to consider the class to gain experience in a field where women could benefit from the exposure in construction.”
Come November 2018, Antresia participated in the class.
“The instructors were great,” she said. “They made sure we knew the power tools, harness and hand tools. We received hands on instruction out in the field which made it much easier to grasp the concept of when we can use them. It made us better prepared to figure out ways ensure safety measures on the job. The mental wellness and financial capabilities workshops gave our class the tools to use to deal with stress. The budgeting and work readiness workshop information positioned us to learn ways to manage our money when we actually land a job.”
After gaining a certification, Hall hopes to continue educating herself in the industry and working her way to the top.
“It is not he who starts the race,” she said, “but the one who finishes at a slower pace. It is all in the planning because planning and follow-through is everything.”
Albert Reyes, Superintendent-in-Training
At 23 years old, Albert Reyes was buying and selling real estate and making a good living off it. Reyes took his profits from selling real estate and invested into properties that he would eventually sell and make more.
“I was making a lot of cash money on the side, too, which tripled my income rather than working a conventional job,” Reyes said.
In the midst of his career, Reyes was indicted for distribution and sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison. To make the most of his situation, Reyes earned two associate degrees and continued to work on bettering himself.
After being released in 2012, Reyes bought a truck and started a company to transport dry freight, goods and services. Unfortunately, he had to sell his assets in 2017 and became unemployed. Not knowing where to turn, Reyes attended a job fair at Houston Community College. At the fair, he met a HAUL business developer who spoke with him about receiving training to secure a job in the construction industry.
Reyes already felt connected to the new industry. At 12 years old, Reyes used to work with his father doing demolition and construction work around Houston. Thinking about his connection to the industry and knowing that he could make a career out of it, he signed up for training.
Reyes had the opportunity to take a NCCER training course and a three-week training program at HAUL. Equipped with knowledge and the potential for a new career, Reyes was thankful he met HAUL at that job fair.
“They supported us by making sure we could transition into the workforce holistically,” Reyes said. “We attended a few courses for financial literacy, then we attended a one on one coaching session, had a resume writing overview and a mental wellness training. I also gained an inordinate amount of knowledge about OSHA that made me familiar with hand and power tools. From my perspective, it would put me in demand by making me more marketable with companies and corporations to earn a higher wage.”
Four weeks after his training, Reyes got a job at construction company Corner Rock as a superintendent-in-training.