DISRUPTOR TO THE INDUSTRY, AQUIRE © PROVIDES COMPANY-WIDE SAFETY AND TRAINING
BY LISA KOPOCHINSKI
Carley Hill has a long-standing history with the construction industry. Having grown up as a third-generation member of a family-owned heavy highway road and bridge company in West Seneca, New York, she spent every summer with her dad at work from as early as she can remember.
“We worked in the field doing everything from stacking cones to cleaning up dump trucks and learning the foundations of the industry,” she recalls.
“From my teens to my early 20s, I was a laborer and carpenter’s assistant. I worked in the field driving trucks, setting up traffic control, building forms, running machines and finishing concrete.”
While in her 20s, Hill pursued a fine arts degree from the University of Buffalo and focused on public art for five years. She then returned to the family business where she worked on logistics, equipment mobilizations, resource management and safety and risk management.
“I also focused on the political side of agency relations because our family worked for mostly state government and local agencies,” she says.
“I served for several years on the AGC of New York Board as a regional representative, and four years with AGC of America Highway Division, Board of Governors, as well as the AGCA Joint Committee with AASHTO and ARTBA.
During that time, I heard a common message across the country about workforce shortages, challenges with training, and getting people who are experienced working in our industry.”
Deciding it was time to find a solution, Hill designed a new tool that could address this challenge for everyone, no matter where in the United States they were located.
Enter aQuiRe©, an app-based e-learning platform she developed — through CaHill Tech Inc., a technology business she formed in Buffalo, New York — that provides company-wide safety and training for the construction industry.
“It’s not only helpful as an on boarding tool, but as a refresher tool for your current employees. We put the training room right in the field, so it’s a very cost-effective way for managing ongoing training needs for your current workforce.”
Essentially, aQuiRe© is designed to appeal to the next generation of construction workers.
“There’s this opportunity we are missing,” Hill emphasizes. “As the gap widens between baby boomers, who are retiring — and the replacement generation coming in — you don’t have the side-by-side mentorship relationship that historically is the way trades-based knowledge gets handed off. Our goal is to document the best practices, processes, and methods of working in this industry. We document and create microburst video learning.”
Hill says one of the primary purposes of the aQuiRe© platform is to reenergize what it means to work in this industry.
“There’s a fair bit of disinformation and stigma associated with blue collar career choices when, in fact, they are emblematic of what makes this country great,” she says.
“Grit, discipline, getting through challenges, ingenuity and working as a team — those are all qualities our system documents and then makes available for your workforce. It is what sets us apart from other training or LMS solutions. It’s what truly keeps people in line, on track and operating in the way all good companies strive for.”
Another reason this kind of platform is important is because our nation’s infrastructure is the backbone of all communities. If this starts to crumble, so do opportunities and growth.
“As our population grows, this puts demand on our systems — whether it is utilities, the grid or roads and drainage systems. The foundations need to keep up with the pace of growth in our country,” says Hill.
“It’s essential that we invest in innovative methods, which not only attract people to work in this industry, but also to keep them here. Retaining employees is a battle — whether it’s your DOT maintenance crews or your heavy and highway construction firms. All of those employees need to know they are being invested in and that their training and education really comes first for employers.”
When Hill started to design aQuiRe© she decided that “keep it simple” would be the mantra.
“There’s no need for things to be fancy and have extra frills,” Hill says.
“Essentially, aQuiRe© is three-pronged. First, the app — which is what the user has available to them on their phone or iPad — runs on iOS, Android, as well as Windows devices. Second is the company admin portal where an owner, HR representative, safety representative or superintendent is looking to see what certifications an employee has, or an owner who is looking to see what kind of activity a user has done in their app.”
Everything a user does in their app reports back to the company admin portal. This is a major differentiator from other safety training apps.
“This allows HR/owner/safety depts to see who is going above and beyond, who has not done their assignments and also provides liability coverage to document what training has been completed,” continues Hill.
“The admin portal allows you to ‘push’ specific training to folks across wide geographies and job types. And thirdly, we have our backend where we upload custom content for clients and create accounts.”
All gathered information and data are stored in the cloud and hosted through Amazon Web Service (AWS) on very secure and stable servers.
Lancaster Development, Inc., an AGC of New York State LLC member, is a heavy highway construction company based in Richmondville, New York that offers road construction services, water sewage systems, paving, milling, trenching and contract crushing services. The company started using the aQuiRe© app in spring 2020.
“The technology appealed to us because it made training much more flexible,” says Cindy Andrews, human resources manager at Lancaster Development.
“We have not been able to hold large meetings, so the aQuiRe© app was a lifesaver in the sense that we were able to get mandatory state trainings done amidst all of the restrictions put in place this year.”
Andrews says another benefit of this platform is that the company can place employees in groups according to their job duties and assign them training videos throughout the season, as well as in the off season.
“This gives them a refresher, or just reminds them about safety issues such as working in certain weather conditions,” she explains.
“The employee can now take the initiative and review training videos on other aspects of the business, and this could be a motivator to the employee to seek further training so that he/she could move to a different position. Employees take quizzes at the end of the training videos to document their participation, and this is trackable and easily reported.”
HOW AQUIRE© WORKS
Each aQuiRe© module is no longer than seven minutes. If it is a complex subject, the modules can be strung together in sequences.
“We work with subject matter experts — people directly from the field who have done the work for their whole careers and know what it’s all about,” explains Hill.
“There’s a storytelling element to it, which is also a very common way of teaching.aQuiRe© is really designed for your blue collar, field-based employees. It empowers them to know what’s going on, what the expectations on the job are, and what the trends and culture of your company might be. Many of our users have an introduction video in their training library, which outlines the values and culture of an organization. The best thing about aQuiRe© is that you can customize it to your needs.”
Andrews says Lancaster Development has been very satisfied with the aQuiRe© platform and would highly recommend it.
“The benefits of this product have been huge this year,” says Andrews. “As [CaHill] works with other agencies to build their training library, this could be a great asset to the construction industry.”
At present, there are more than 200 video modules included in the training library that CaHill has created for all users. Those training modules fit into four different categories: Safety, Iron, Site Ops (the how to portion of the app) and Comply. Each module consists of a video, a quiz and additional resources.
This kind of platform is important because the nation’s infrastructure is the backbone of all communities. If this starts to crumble, so do opportunities and growth.
“One thing that separates this training system from others is these “How To” videos,” explains Hill.
“Workers can learn the basics for everything from paving and pouring concrete to setting rebar to stay in place form, setting curbs and installing culverts. We also added five new modules to the training library in late January having to do with GPS training on machines, a bridge build training video on measuring haunch depth, and three hazard prevention videos.”
And, if that isn’t enough, this spring an OSHA-10 training course is being added where users can complete their OSHA-10 training on the app along with their refresher course.
“We update the app continuously and have big plans for 2021 and beyond,” adds Hill.