Leadership

Unveiling Its Latest Partnership, BTF Turns Vicious Circles Virtuous

Hatching a new community-level alliance with the US Army Reserve Private Public Partnership Office, Building Talent Foundation aims to push solving housing's human talent challenge as a step toward solving to all of housing's other crises.

Leadership

Unveiling Its Latest Partnership, BTF Turns Vicious Circles Virtuous

Hatching a new community-level alliance with the US Army Reserve Private Public Partnership Office, Building Talent Foundation aims to push solving housing's human talent challenge as a step toward solving to all of housing's other crises.

November 10th, 2023
Unveiling Its Latest Partnership, BTF Turns Vicious Circles Virtuous
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You'd have to think that vicious circles come with the turf of being human, and that terms to describe them – and their opposite, virtuous circles – would have been in usage in our language for just about forever.

So, it's a surprise to discover that "vicious circle" only made it into recorded use in the late 1600s, and that "virtuous circles" didn't start piggybacking on their vicious counterparts until the 1950s.

Why begin here? Vicious and virtuous circles or cycles or what-have-you go hand-in-glove with housing's hardest problems and its most encouraging human solutions. So, let's drill in and look at precise definitions of each.

Both American Heritage and Merriam-Webster’s define “vicious circle” as (1) a circular argument or (2) a situation in which the apparent solution to one problem creates a second one that makes it harder to solve the original problem.
The OED defines a “virtuous circle” as “a recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next.” – Grammarphobia

Hold in mind those two definitions for a moment as you consider the following list of chronic and acute business-of-housing crisis challenges:

  • Affordability
  • Resiliency
  • Sustainability
  • Build-ability

Pit supply capacity against structural demand, required vs. committed resources, political will vs. political resistance, and any number of other opposing forces that impede balances in housing, and you're immediately living the meaning of vicious circles as they were originally recognized in the English language.

The phrase “vicious circle” was used in the 1700s for an argument that circles back on itself because its premise is flawed (usually the premise is used to justify the conclusion, which in turn is used to justify the premise)."

Take any single one of those four greatest chronic challenges – affordability, resiliency, sustainability, and build-ability (i.e. human capability and labor capacity) – and each and every one of them feed back on each other.

A recent research piece from academics – Troup Howard (University of Utah) and Mengqi Wang and Dayin Zhang (University of Wisconsin, Madison) – illustrates the vicious circle through a story in data:

U.S. housing markets have faced a secular shortage of housing supply in the past decade. Most explanations in the literature have tended to focus on the distortionary effect of local housing regulations. This paper provides novel evidence on a less-explored channel affecting housing supply: shortages of construction labor. We exploit the staggered rollout of a national increase in immigration enforcement to identify nega- tive shocks to construction sector employment that are likely exogenous with respect to local housing market conditions. We show that treated counties experience large and persistent reductions in residential construction activity, using measures of both planned and realized construction activity. This reduced housing supply is associated with increases in home prices. We also show that domestic labor supply does not fully offset immigration-related reductions in the construction sector; and that within higher-skilled construction occupations, U.S. workers see net declines as a consequence of increased immigration enforcement."

Boiled down, from scholarship to homebuilding supply-demand's hardest realities, the vicious circle comes clear like this:

They connect the housing supply with the labor supply and prove that there is a direct correlation," says Branka Minic, ceo of Building Talent Foundation. "You cannot build more homes unless you have more workers and affordability of homes will never be addressed unless we address as well, the supply of talent."

Turning housing's vicious circles into virtuous circles – principally by bringing more and fresher supplies of human capability to bear in solving the sector's hardest problems – has been Minic's committed purpose since she took the helm of BTF in 2019. Recently, she had one of her team's proudest achievements, after 40 months, starting from square one, at igniting and nurturing an array of new linkages from schools, to communities, to employment infrastructures, to homebuilding training, recruitment, and retention efforts.

This week, BTF announced it has teamed up in a collaborative strategic venture with the US Army Reserve Private Public Partnership Office (P3O) the partners believe will mutually benefit both homebuilding and household earnings opportunities for the nation's 176,000 Army Reservists. Minic notes that, typically, Army Reserve service men and women are required to put in 39 days in training and obligations.

It amounts to one weekend per month, and two weeks during the summer," says Minic. "Especially for the 30% of Reservists who are not employed and need to support their families in civilian jobs, that time commitment doesn't prevent them from working full-time for a company. I'm very excited because we will be helping a very important group of people."

According to materials provided on the announcement, the BTF-P3O collaboration provides Army Reserve Soldiers and their family members access to BTF's network of over 350 education and training partners, and over 1000 employers. Additionally, Soldiers will receive personalized career coaching and job search support from both BTF Engagement Managers and Army Reserve Employment Specialists (ARES), ensuring a smooth transition into their civilian careers.

This will cross all levels of positions because some of them would be great for our entry-level positions and skilled trade positions, while others will have suitable opportunities in project management, superintendents, and construction management," Minic says, adding that training is a critical focus of the partnership with P3O.

We have of 50 builder partners in our 20 markets, and have worked with them to inform 350 different schools and training programs," Minic says. "Some of them are within public school systems, some are private training providers, some are community-based training organizations for building-related fields. BTF helps those partners to fill the classes and to take their graduates on to employment. Now that trust has built up among these partners, we're pushing the linkages even farther.
For example, we brought Resideo team members to 17 of our training providers and they reviewed the curriculum being taught in HVAC, electrical and plumbing programs, and identified certain holes in those training programs when it comes to new equipment and new ways of doing what their specialty is. Then, Resideo donated these new products to our training partners, along with some online training courses, and worked with instructors to incorporate that into the curricula. So now these programs are stronger and Building Talent Foundation is on the receiving end to get graduates of those programs and place them with the trade partners of our builders.
So our builders now receive the workforce that's better trained. This is a really nice model and you have all the stakeholders involved.

At every turn, where housing – market-rate single-family, multifamily, or low-income affordable – has its vicious-circle crises in full bloom, Branka Minic and the growing Building Talent Foundation team have activated, and are nurturing to maturity, virtuous circle solutions.

The 21 Leading Builders of America firms definitely are committed to BTF because they understand that what we're trying to solve is a marathon," Minic says. "Yes, there can be ups and downs, but we need to stay committed to resolve these interrelated challenges. Where our homebuilder members are asking that we focus even more is taking people into training classes, not just into jobs. Our effort going going forward is to also fill all classes that teach construction to the brim, because that's the only way that we will counter the retiring and the you know, retention losses are the retention losses, because we have a huge problem with the aging workforce. That's why the P3 collaboration is so critically important as it focuses on tapping into that broad training infrastructure we've worked to bring together."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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