THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE CONSTRUCTION & MANAGEMENT EDUCATION FOUNDATION OF HOUSTON IN THEIR SUMMER TRAINING NEWSLETTER.
What’s the most important tool available for a craft professional? Knowledge. At least, it is for those in the construction industry.
Michael Villar, CB&I Site Manager, has transformed into a powerful tool for his company after 14 years of consistent, individually-sought training. At CB&I, Villar develops new policies, manages client relations, and ensures employee safety. But his day at the office now is very different from his early beginnings. “I was actually hired right out of high school as a pipefitter,” Villar said. “I had no idea what I was getting into…I was going to be a helper.”
He had never intended on following a pipefitting career path. With every intention of attending Louisiana State University to study mechanical engineering, Villar’s start as a pipefitter began as a summer job. The summer job just never ended.
“I didn’t really choose [construction], I think it chose me. I like being in the field. I like learning. When I started looking into [training]…
that’s when I started looking at planning and scheduling. It put me on the path,” Villar said.
Looking back, he could not believe he had reached 20 years old and never heard about becoming a pipefitter, or even entering the construction industry in general. It’s not just residential, he said. This is a theme for Villar’s field; managers struggle to hire trained individuals simply because they are unaware of the career options. Since entering the industry, Villar said it’s getting better, but the message isn’t hitting the right market needed to make the necessary change.
“The skilled crafts workforce is more diluted than it was 14 years ago…I think that needs to be talked about more in school levels. And not just when we get employees into a construction site and then try to get them to go to training. I know that’s something we’re working on through [the Construction & Maintenance Education Foundation],” Villar said.
This led Villar to describe the actual workforce. Villar said he was lucky to have had mentors to guide him down a successful path, a path bearing enough fruit to provide for his growing family over the past 14 years. The tool that helped provide? Training.
Villar’s career, if chronologically detailed, is a list of work and training courses aligning with what Villar hoped to be the next step on his
career path. “Knowledge is power,” he repeated. As a manager, Villar encourages all of his employees to seek out training to maintain a safe working environment and progress in their own careers.
“I take a lot of safety leadership [classes] now. There’s a lot of stuff online. If you want that information, you can go out there and get it,” Villar said. “It’s out there. It’s easy to get. Why not take advantage of it?”
Knowledge is power, so they say. But for Michael Villar, knowledge has been the most powerful tool of his career, aiding him in his climb up the ladder. His success shines a light on a path for the next generation of craftsmen and construction professionals. He advises future professionals in the field to not only seek training, but to always look to the future. “If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll find someone to put the same effort into you…and take pride in helping you grow.”
CMEF’s mission is to develop and administer cost effective training, skills assessment, and other workforce development programs that will increase the quality and availability of construction and maintenance employees, communicate career opportunities, promote a positive image for the industry, and satisfy the needs of Owners, Contractors, and their employees in the Greater Houston area.
For more information about CMEF’s world-class training programs, visit www.cmefhouston.org.