February 19, 2013

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Forty under 40

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February 19, 2013

The other concern is the lost generation we have, because seven or eight years ago, there was high demand for people coming out of school being incorporated into our industry. With the downturn, not as many are looking to construction for a career. When things do ramp back up, we’re going to have a challenge because there’s not going to be the supply of qualified people that there was eight years ago—not only in the craft side, but also people graduating from construction management or engineering programs.

WADMAN: A lot of the project managers are basically developed in-house. We don’t go outside a whole bunch. When we’ve got a guy that’s been in the industry for several years and he’s starting to gain that experience and we’re looking to put him in a superintendent position, we don’t have those opportunities like we’ve had in the past. So we stagnate those people, and we can’t move them through our program to get them to a superintendent project manager level because we don’t have the projects to do so.

Our older guys are getting to the end of their careers. The concern we have is these 25-year-old guys that have been in the industry, giving them the opportunity to run projects—start them on the smaller projects and work them through. It’s challenging.

We go through and rake those guys up to their capacity. If we could have the dream job for this person, what size would that project be? So we put a capacity on each one of those people, and we are so far below our capacity. We’ve got guys that could run $10 million jobs that are running $200,000 projects.

When we grow within our company, we don’t necessarily look to bring on a superintendent. We want somebody to learn the way we do things and bring them up through the ranks. And that’s been challenging because they’ve been working below their capacity for four or five years.   

ANDERSON: We’re in good shape, but as we pick up larger work, we’ll be scrambling a little for the workers, the operators, the superintendents. A lot of people have left the area. They’ve gone up to North Dakota and the oil fields.

Our workforce is aging, too. A lot of our old superintendents are retiring and moving on. It’s hard to keep these guys interested and engage the young guys to keep them challenged until they get that slot. We need more work to do that.  

KILGORE: On the positive side, there’s a lot of good talent out there, especially on the estimator and superintendent side. So if you do have a spot for somebody, there’s a lot of good people out there. You can really capitalize on that if you’ve got capacity to include them in your company.    

Are there going to be shortages in any of the specialty areas?

GOLDING: In the past, we’ve worked closely with the community colleges and even offered tuition and help with the tools. But we’re in that mode where we’re just waiting for more work to come to create more opportunities.

We have not had to go out and beat the bushes like we did five years ago. We’re down 25 percent in our employment from six years ago. We’re grateful to be able to employ 1,000 people right now, and it’s a challenge.

P. CAMPBELL: Attracting people to this industry is becoming more and more difficult, and I don’t think we’re getting a lot of support from high schools. They tend to steer kids away from this industry rather than showing them what kind of careers are available and the amount of money that people can make.

We’ve got plenty of people on the white collar side; but on the technical side, we have to go get them. We have to find them, put them through school, pay for their schooling and get them into the industry.

When you look at the level of technology that’s coming out on the equipment, primarily because of clean
air regulations, the required level of technical ability is going up exponentially. We have to train and retain these people. Down the road, if you don’t want your machine sitting there for a couple of weeks while you find a technician to work on it, it’s going to be very, very difficult unless we can get the schools to provide incentives for these talented kids to come into the industry. 

HUNT: I’ve gone to the high school career day and tried to paint a picture of what types of careers are available. And you get a lot of blank stares in the room—not much engagement. About a month ago, we brought a couple busloads of kids through our facility. They were very surprised that we really do need some brainpower to do construction.

JOHNSON: We have been chasing volume to survive. Wages have reduced drastically as the tradespeople chase projects to the bottom just to have opportunity. Consequently, our masons in our business don’t want their sons to come into the business.

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