Houston will rebuild, which means jobs

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

The images coming out of Houston after the destruction by Hurricane Harvey were mindboggling. But instead of focusing solely on the destruction, all I saw was the money to be made by rebuilding Houston. Like its counterpart, New Orleans, Louisiana, Houston is too vital a center of commerce for the state of Texas to allow it to be written off. So it will be rebuilt and when that begins to happen, they will need workers to do it.

Those workers can come from the Chicagoland area in a 21st-century version of the Great Migration back to the South. Flooding, unlike an earthquake, will recede in time. The water-damaged structures will need to be torn down and rebuilt. There will be both government and private industry money abounding to replace the flood-damaged buildings. 

If Japan could recover from the tsunami that hit it in 2011, then I know America can recover from Hurricane Harvey. The biggest question is whether our elected officials have the willpower to do it without grandstanding for their respective political party. 

The other big question is whether American citizens are willing to gamble and move to another state in search of employment. Whenever the undocumented movement professes that those individuals are the only salvation for a problem and thus shouldn't be deported, black folks should show up and profess our willingness to do the jobs because we're American citizens. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country and thus the variety of jobs it has to offer will vary greatly.

Speaking of work, I recently changed jobs after only two months. As I've written previously, having a commercial driver's license (CDL) has always been a major plus for me when it came time to find a job. Back in June, I interviewed and was hired on the spot to drive a bus. That led to an encounter where I learned of a job paying even more per hour. When I interviewed for the new job, the manager told me not only was his business expanding, but there would be plenty of overtime in the upcoming months. So I left the job I had just started in June and went with the new one.

It is because of my new job that I am seeing a lot of people who can barely speak English who also somehow have a CDL. Driving past Olive Harvey College, 101st and Woodlawn, I saw the semi-trailer trucks parked in the lot. A quick visit to their website shows that they offer CDL classes. So rather than pay an exorbitant fee to a private truck driving school, a student can get the same certification through the city college program. 

How hard is it to get a job once one has passed the course? Easy! I spoke with a driver who paid $8,000 for his classes elsewhere and he was not only hired by a trucking company, it was his first run and he was picking up a shipment in Illinois and taking it to Ohio. I can guarantee that as Houston rebuilds, the products and materials it will need to get back on track will come from trucks bringing it in.

It is easy for folks to lament a lack of jobs. But the reality is that the old factories of the early 20th century are gone. So being creative in employment strategies, as well as being prepared for the opportunity when it comes along, is the key.

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