What is your organization doing to develop construction industry talent?

What is your organization doing to develop construction industry talent?

According to national labor projections, the construction industry could lose up to a quarter of its workforce due to retirement over the next several years. As many as 80 percent of companies struggle to find workers currently, making the issue of talent development an urgent concern for the industry.

Building Indiana Business reached out to several Indiana construction firms to learn about their activities regarding the attraction and development of new workers. Check out their responses below.

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Brett Walsh, EVP, Human Resources

Attracting, developing and retaining talent is a key strategic priority for Graycor. To sustain our growth, we need to employ an approach to hire, grow and advance talent to meet our short- and long-term objectives.

Our interns and recent college graduates are vital components of our talent pipeline. Each year we engage individuals at the university level by presenting to classes and recruiting on campus. We’ve developed a program to help these students and recent grads apply their construction management or engineering education and enter the industry with a basic understanding of technical concepts and theories. The goal of the Graycor Engineer Mentoring Program is to round out their knowledge with more in-depth, hands-on experience and candid mentoring and coaching.

We also offer our employees learning opportunities through various structured development programs on the job and in the classroom, through eLearning and through mentorship. Each employee’s learning “transcript” or skills inventory, as well as their performance and goal progress, are tracked through our online Talent Management System so that management can more easily track the career development and advancement potential of our people.

We feel the investment in our training and development programs not only differentiates us in the marketplace, but more importantly provides a solid foundation for the professional and personal growth of our people. It creates the right culture to enhance the construction services solutions that we provide our clients.

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Megan Tharp, Human Resources Manager
Tonn and Blank Construction

Tonn and Blank Construction focuses on identifying employees’ professional development and growth potential by having open conversations to understand an individual’s desired career path and their professional goals. We encourage all employees to voice their ideas and take the initiative when opportunities present themselves. We believe our overall success is directly related to our employees’ satisfaction, professional development and growth. They are also our best recruiting tool.

We engage our current employees in our recruitment efforts to help us identify the best talent. Their insight allows us to make better hires. Our recruitment approach not only focuses on hiring for roles we have now, but also hiring the next generation of employees. This includes building excitement about the construction industry through high school programs, college internships and trade organizations.

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Anthony Pangere, Vice President
The Pangere Corporation

In our goal to attract talent, we often rely on our employees to share their personal experiences and growth with the company to showcase what life at Pangere is like. We stress our corporate culture, commitment to safety, continuing education programs, as well as opportunities available for advancement. It is the follow through on these items that allow us to retain and develop the talent we have.

We’ve seen great results by creating a team approach to problem solving in the different areas of our business, such as job planning, estimating, and safety. Ownership and management work hands-on with groups to continuously improve these areas and to help employees implement new knowledge gained through educational programs.

We also form groups made up of people working in different disciplines so that everyone is able to bring a unique perspective to the table. In addition, our internal mentoring programs have helped to develop supervisors and project managers, allowing each employee to take on more responsibility and accountability at a pace that will ensure their success. The mentoring programs allow experienced professionals to help those seeking advancement learn the ins-and-outs of some of the more difficult aspects of the business to understand such as accounting, contracts, proposals, and personnel management.

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Amy Henningfield, Executive Assistant
Superior Construction Co., Inc.

Superior Construction’s proactive approach to talent development is also a major tool to help us draw new employee candidates. We invest in our employees throughout their entire careers, beginning as early as their internship, which helps support greater retention, attraction, and ultimately job satisfaction.

We are actively involved in recruiting at career fairs and we are firm believers in the value of our internship program. High quality training and education empowers our interns to develop a career that will lead to great benefits and opportunities for success. People generally want to work for a company that supports their professional growth, so these investments add to both the strength of our company and our recruitment marketing strategy.

Also, continuing education and training offers opportunities for our existing employees to succeed in today’s competitive market. Superior Construction takes pride in investing in our employees and contributing to their successes as some of the top talent in the area.

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Sarah Hempstead, CEO, Principal
Schmidt Associates

Supporting and molding future architects, engineers, and construction professionals has been a priority for our firm for decades. We do this through involvement with education-focused youth organizations, school programs, and scholarship support at the university level. As program managers, we have even required student interns to be considered for professional services.

One of our primary ongoing focuses is Junior Achievement’s annual JobSpark fair. As a founding partner of this program, we work with JA to give seventh and eighth grade students hands-on exposure to our industry. The kids come in with only abstract ideas of what being an architect or an engineer means, and they leave with a tangible experience and newfound excitement for their career possibilities.

Even still, we see a hole in the pipeline. While STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) has become a focus in many school systems, there is a lack of architectural and engineering education, particularly for underrepresented communities. To combat this, our firm is currently developing our own curriculum to expose kids to these concepts within the STEAM framework. We are working on programs for elementary, middle, and high school grade levels to ensure that rising design talent is identified and shown a pathway to licensure and success.

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Lori Harvey, Executive Director
Building Contractors Association of Northeast Indiana

BCA’s work to encourage more young people to enter the trades started nearly two decades ago with the creation of its Workforce Development & Education Committee. Over the years, the committee has established good working relationships with numerous northeast Indiana-based educators and counselors helping to bridge the gaps between their classrooms and our members’ businesses.

Since 2001, BCA has sponsored the Construction Career Academy (CCA) that brings 60 high school students together with a dozen BCA contractors in the construction labs at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne. We educate them on the wide variety of trades and professions used in construction, what hard and soft skills are most in demand, and how to best prepare for a successful path into a construction career.

Representing 94 contractors in the Fort Wayne region, BCA serves as an effective partner with organizations formed in recent years to promote the trades. Encouraging a more collaborative effort and a unified, nonbiased message about our industry is a primary goal of BCA. We expect our overall program of work to attract and develop industry talent will continue to a top priority in the long-term future as it has been for the past twenty years.

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Kevin Hammonds, Senior Human Resources Manager
The Hagerman Group

At Hagerman, our efforts to attract and engage talent start early. We participate in several programs with the next generation of workforce, all the way down to the elementary school level.

One of our favorite events was our ‘Little Hard Hats’ program for an Elementary School in Roanoke, IN. While completing a major classroom expansion, our Hagerman team spoke at a special school assembly for all 600 students. The students watched concrete being poured and finished, spoke with our project team, and participated in a safety demonstration. We also participate and sponsor programs such as JA JobSpark and other middle school and high school awareness fairs.

While not all of these children will end up wearing a Hagerman hardhat, it’s incumbent upon all of us in the industry to promote construction as a viable and important career path. Internally, the Hagerman Institute of Learning is our unique training and development platform that provides job enrichment opportunities not only for our employees, but for others in the construction space as well.

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Kevin Comerford, Director of Professional Development
Construction Advancement Foundation (CAF)

The Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana has always taken a proactive approach to attract skilled workers into the construction industry as well as develop the skills of the men and women already employed in construction. The future of our industry depends on recruiting and attracting the best and the brightest talent available.

The CAF has strong ties to northwest Indiana communities, and we work closely with regional high schools, career & technical training centers, and universities to promote construction as a viable and rewarding career path. We created the We Build Northwest Indiana website to serve as a valuable resource for individuals who are interested in learning about construction industry careers.

Recently, we have co-sponsored a biannual hands-on skilled trades day event. This event gives students the opportunity to work alongside construction trade apprentices and perform construction related tasks such as virtually operating a backhoe or fastening bolts on a structural steel beam.

For those that are already in the industry, The CAF offers a wide variety of cutting-edge professional development programs for regional contractors. Educational course offerings include courses for executive managers, project managers, field supervisors, journeymen, apprentices, and office personnel.

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Ben Braun, Vice President of Corporate Affairs/Partner
American Structurepoint

Our robust internship program in which we give construction management and engineering students real-world experience ranks as our company’s biggest way to attract construction industry talent. American Structurepoint conducts our intern program as though it’s a three-month interview. We use internships to find the best talent that we want to hire as employees upon graduation. We start interns in the field on actual job sites working as construction inspectors. About 15 to 20 percent of our summer field construction solutions staff are interns who do everything a general inspector does from materials and quantity tracking to performing quality control. We also involve interns in pre-construction and progress meetings with clients, contractors, and stakeholders to expose them to the “why” behind our processes. We give them practical exposure on how to do pay estimates and change orders.

We also attract talent by attending career fairs at Purdue University, Indiana State, Ivy Tech, and Rose-Hulman as well having our construction solutions staff speak to college students on campus about what a career path looks like in construction.

To develop talent, we typically use the off-season for construction solutions staff to obtain certifications, take courses and seminars, and participate in trainings. We also are developing talent by hiring people who aren’t in our industry, but have college degrees, have worked in a construction or manufacturing role, and possess a complementary set of skills that will translate well into construction inspection and resident project representative roles. More people are leaving the construction industry than coming into the industry as Baby Boomers retire. We’ve taken a broader approach in hiring; as the talent pool gets shallower, you have the make the pool bigger. We have seen great success with this method in the past year.

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Steve Allemeier, Chief Operating Officer
Pepper Construction Company of Indiana

At Pepper Indiana, we use creative and traditional methods to attract, develop, and retain people. We provide incentives to existing employees for referrals to tradespeople, look outside of conventional project management backgrounds for managerial candidates, and work with colleges and high schools to spread awareness about career opportunities.

Once someone joins Pepper, our onboarding includes ongoing opportunities to enhance their development, ultimately promoting a culture of education, innovation and collaboration. This includes training on project management processes and tools, technology, safety, quality, and soft skills. We also provide mentoring through our Pepper Connection program and opportunities for managers to take on more responsibility earlier in their careers. We’ve found that this balanced approach helps employees develop their skillsets, find their voice, and gain confidence more quickly.

At the end of the day, it’s also about retaining people. In my career, I’ve found that if you encourage education, provide opportunities for ongoing development, and show appreciation for hard work, then your reputation will help retain and attract new talent.”

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