ChristopherPratt-(002)Chris Pratt started in construction at an early age and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, from incorporating technology to green building to training. He talks with Carmela Walker about how varied a career in construction can be and how beneficial knowledge of different crafts is. CW: What were your beginnings as a trainer? CP: I was born into a construction family and grew up as a fourth-generation builder. I had the luxury of working in residential, commercial and industrial crafts doing a variety of tasks. I grew up as a S.O.B (son of a builder). In the early, developmental stages of our construction company in Detroit, I was brought up with a very forward-thinking dad. He realized that our company needed to onboard an architect and engineer, so my brother and I were trained to utilize these skills. In the summertime, while people were on vacation, we were training in the field of construction working as laborers, roofers, painters, plumbers, dry wall hangers, electricians and carpenters. Over time, I became well versed in all of the crafts. PullQuote-fieldBy age 15, I had a chance to see what it took to put together projects beyond the hands-on components in formation and scope. Also, in the very beginning of the computer era, my dad bought us a computer in place of an Atari. Instead of playing a game, he had us write our own software for the game. As estimation and construction merged, my dad wanted my brother and I to get used to the idea of project development so that we could be on the forefront of technology. CW: In what ways did you utilize the knowledge you received to gain momentum into the field? CP: While in college, I enrolled into the field of architecture, and I was there until my junior year. In 1992, there was a great new project called “Smart House” that was in limited partnership and division with the National Association of Home Builders. I entered there principally because we were doing demonstration homes in the Detroit area. We were contracted as the sixth homebuilder out of 26 in the nation chosen to build homes. The system was quite ready for the marriage of technology and construction. However, we were tasked with writing the software to build, operate and control the moving components within those houses. The idea was so innovative that we ended up placing 26,000 people in homes a matter of six weeks. It was a huge success. We discovered while on the project that there were great new things and a myriad of ways builders could explore what homes could do in construction. The question became how do you bring these technologies together. This was really the beginning of home theaters and security. At 24 years old, I began presenting adaptable content and contextualize material to engineers. Eventually, I became vice president over a 12 million dollar technology company and as the program excelled, it gave me a new level of access. However, I felt there were personal milestones I wanted to achieve, like starting a family. As I considered this change, my father fortunately still had a position open for me. At that time, we just started implementing Energy Star appliances and Energy Star homes which began to merge not only with electronic technology, but focused on that as a way of building. Quickly, the green movement was born. We began building Energy Star homes and I began to realize this was an interesting niche. In 2001 and 2003, we began building energy efficient homes under $300,000. By 2006, this led to acknowledgement and recognition as the best green builder having constructed the project under $400,000 by the U.S Department of Energy and 2009, I was elected as the green advocate of the year by the National Association of Home Builders. CW: How did workforce development coupled with training fit into this changing trend? PullQuote-pathwaysCP: Well, I ended up getting connected with an organization called the Warm Training Center in Detroit. The training center helped individuals with their heating bills during the winter. They also had an advocacy component and received about $120,000 to help unemployed residences to find jobs through training. I began working on a grant in the Houston area and on a joint venture with Community Family Center and Home Builders Institute. In our 10-week long training at the center, we would transform a 4- or 5-thousand square foot warehouse into vocational hands-on training space so that students could  install drywall, rip out old windows and replace them and etc. Upon completion of this cohort, we had an 86 percent placement rate. It was huge because the skills that people were gaining carved out a myriad of career pathways. We were training 300 to 400 people a year from that program. Through this work, I began to see the impact of how we could have a positive effect on unemployed individuals through warehouse training, concrete, flat work training, project management and weatherization. It seemed to be a great fit to get people into job. CW: What do you foresee in the future with construction, training and technology? Where do you see it going? There are people who have skills, but have difficulty communicating their professional experience. So we came up with a proposal to match employers with potential candidates who live in the same general area instead of a candidate who has to drive from Katy, Texas to Houston for employment. This way, clients can fill out a profile to match them to employers. The employer could then pull the information to match their outline automatically making it seamless for the individual. This technology reaches into what employers need and can match it directly to an individual who has filled out a profile, extract skill sets and scores the candidate from two perspectives: 1) it streamlines individual looking for employment in their respective field(s); 2) and as opposed to sifting through 300 applications, it reduces the time and streamlines the opportunity for the employers to search and hire for qualified skilled professionals. CW: How is this going to affect the workforce since artificial intelligence is playing a major role in the field with specific skill sets?  How does it help workers segue into construction and make an impact? CP: Building a house won’t ever be controlled by a robot unless they are building modular homes or homes with paneled walls where they come out on a truck and assemble on the site. From barcodes and scanning devices to ice makers and refrigerators, we have machines assembling the work. We no longer need someone delivering ice, but in construction, you will always need a roofer or someone with drywall skills or someone who can do trim and customize parts within the structure. PullQuote-craftsCW: You sound pretty optimistic about the future. What are some suggestions you could make for someone who is just starting out in the field or who would like to make it a career. What would be your advice? CP: I think exposure to different crafts is key. A great program from NCCER called Construction Technology exposes students to plumbing, electrical, and some framing and carpentry skills. Apprenticeship programs are great for this because these are jobs where prospects can get trained and have paid income. As they enter in as an apprentice, prospects are able to go through one level to the next. It is a fantastic way to learn about opportunities out there. Those crafts are definitely on the high skills high demand list. However, homes are wired with high speed communications and with technology integrating these amenities together, it creates another level of access in this field.

2 comments

Leave a comment
  1. rburris | Sep 12, 2018

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for reaching out. I've forwarded your information on to Carmela Walker, who is in touch Chris.

    Have a great day!

    Rachel Burris, NCCER communications manger

  2. laura concannon | Sep 10, 2018

    Great article, how do I get in touch with Chris.  I would love to work on his ideas with my non profit in Baltimore City.  Tools4Success, Inc.  we re a 501(c)(3) organization.

     

    Thanks

     

    Laura Concannon

    Leave a comment

    About NCCER

    NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.