Upward mobility is part and parcel of a career in the construction industry, but not everyone is aware of this.
“Building a career in construction is a smart choice,” explains Jennifer Boezwinkle, executive vice president of Rockford Construction. “It offers a good living for people who love to see the physical results of the work they do. And there is a lot of mobility; at our company, people have started in the skilled trades and moved up to supervisory roles, project managers and have become executives.”
To spread this message, Rockford is taking a variety of approaches. In 2017 the company launched a summer internship program. The company targets students enrolled in construction management programs at local universities. Interns work approximately 40 hours per week over the course of roughly 10 weeks by running side-step with Rockford team members on both short- and long-term projects. Scheduling includes onboarding, training, community service, social opportunities, and performance evaluation. Interns receive competitive pay for the work performed.
And the program has had positive results. To date, more than half of the interns trained have either returned for another internship or been hired as full-time team members at Rockford.
The company has also extended its focus to support the industry from a community perspective. One way is to expand job opportunities to a wider pool of candidates. They created a program called Dimensions to support a local, diverse and entrepreneurial group of trades in West Michigan. The program is comprised of an eight-week curriculum designed to teach trade contractors the tools necessary to do business effectively. Attendees also have the opportunity to meet the Rockford team and network with others in the industry.
The program provides support to minority-, women-, disability- and veteran-owned commercial trade contractors by offering exposure to the tools and processes necessary to build their businesses while working toward long-term stability by providing opportunities to bid and perform on local projects.
Update Recruitment Efforts
To ensure that potential employees understand the potential that the field offers, Rockford has added new recruitment tools. “We are using social media to visually highlight people who are doing wonderful hands-on work.”
Boezwinkle feels the industry needs an image upgrade. She points out that the push, while necessary, for STEM education, has seemed to push the trades into the shadows. “Skills trade industries shouldn’t be a fall-back to those not going to college, it’s a career choice.”
And if the issue of safety might be holding some potential employees back from entering the industry, Boezwinkle says that safety is the top priority at her company. “Our mantra is safety,” she explains. “It is front and center for everything we do. Every meeting begins with a safety message and everyone in the company is empowered to stop work and correct a safety issue.” This emphasis on safety extends to companies that they partner with. A team from Rockford Construction travels to each site to verify the safety practices of its partners. Additionally, the company recently achieved GOLD level status in ABC’s STEP Safety Management System.
As safety has involved in the industry, so too has technology. “Construction is embracing a lot of hi-tech tools including using augmented reality (AR),” explains Boezwinkle. “We are using this in our design phase which allows a virtual tour of buildings and plan to use it in other areas as well.”
And of course, most field members have embraced walking the job site with an iPad. This tool has been of great assistance on many levels, Boezwinkle points out. Communicating in real-time between all of the various people involved in a project has been a major time saver. And maintaining documentation through project management software has increased efficiency.
Looking ahead Boezwinkle sees an even larger role that technology will play including training and safety and the company is looking into all of these areas.
The increasing role of technology in the construction industry will go a long way toward attracting the younger generation to a career that they might not have considered. And that’s the message that Rockford is spreading. “Construction is a unique industry, with a lot of opportunities,” Boezwinkle said..