BY GEOFF PHILLIPS AND SARAH MUELLER
Society in the 21st century has changed course due to the rise of technology and the advent of the global economy. This has led to differing expectations within the workforce about what constitutes a rewarding and fulfilling career. As it becomes more and more challenging to find people who want to be part of the construction craft, education and training are playing increasingly important roles in the recruiting and employee development processes.
Shapiro & Duncan, an AGC of Metropolitan Washington D.C. member that provides cutting-edge mechanical solutions including pre-construction, engineering, construction, design/build, fabrication, installation and maintenance services, maintains a commitment to employee education, training and development dating back to its founding in 1976. The company has invested substantially in apprenticeship programs and has developed a wide variety of other career development and educational opportunities – not only to bring people into construction, but also to help them advance and stay with Shapiro & Duncan.
With such a high priority on employee education, training and development, S&D has given its comprehensive program a special name: S&D YOUniversity. Here are three fundamental factors underpinning the company’s commitment.
INCREASING NEED FOR EMPLOYEE EDUCATION AND TRAINING
In today’s construction industry, employee education and training is all about keeping employee skills current in a business environment where technology is rapidly advancing. This is not your grandfather’s, or even your father’s, construction industry.
No doubt, construction is not easy work and that makes it even more challenging to bring people on board. Further compounding the problem is the fact that a talent exodus caused by the prolonged recession shows no sign of a turnaround. According to the July 2016 analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics June employment data, “Despite a broader U.S. labor market rebound in June, the construction industry failed to add jobs for a third consecutive month.”
Currently, there are half a million positions that can’t be filled in the construction industry because of the workforce shortage. At the same time, increasing numbers of people, especially workers in their 40s and 50s, are abandoning the industry. As a result, the construction jobs deficit is expected to increase to 2 million by 2022.
According to a recent survey by AGC of America, two-thirds of contractors are having a hard time finding qualified craft workers to hire [link to survey results/press release]. Construction companies have to work hard to demonstrate to millennials that we offer a great career opportunity and a better place to work. Generally speaking, people born since the early 1980s are expecting advancement opportunities and work/life balance. Millennials are also concerned about career mobility; they don’t want to be stuck in the same position for the next 10 years.
DEMONSTRATING THE VALUE OF A CONSTRUCTION CAREER
Rising educational costs is another key factor related to employee recruitment and development. One of Shapiros’ challenges is heightening awareness among prospective and current employees that it is possible for a young person to work hard, earn a living with good benefits and obtain an education that will be of value to them without being saddled with five or six figures of student loan debt.
Prospective and current employees also need to know that they can have mobility within the construction field. It is important for us to provide career paths with different levels of skill and education development, so that people coming into the construction industry know it’s not a dead-end career.
For example, thanks to the education and training provided by S&D YOUniversity, a plumber can become a project manager or an HVAC technician can become an estimator. An apprentice can become a foreman, then an assistant project manager, then a project manager. From there, the career path could lead to project executive and ultimately to vice president. It all depends on the individual’s attitude, ambition and aptitude.
PHILOSOPHY ON EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT
Led by company President Jerry Shapiro and CEO Sheldon Shapiro, Shapiro & Duncan is committed to continual improvement through strategic growth which fuels expansion and yields more opportunity for career growth.
That is why the firm places a high strategic priority on making it an attractive employment brand. Education and training and on-the-job flexibility are critical factors in this effort. Providing education and training results in upward mobility for employees, which in turn opens up jobs, builds the company and adds value.
The harsh truth is that companies who do not have the best talent are not going to be successful in today’s heavily competitive environment. But it takes a conscious, committed and consistent effort to develop a skilled workforce.
S&D also provides a tuition reimbursement benefit of two credits per year toward a degree at Montgomery College, University of Maryland/College Park or another institution of the employee’s choice.
GUIDE TO S&D YOUNIVERSITY
S&D YOUniversity has been evolving for more than 20 years. Today it offers a variety of training courses in-house, through external sources and online.
S&D YOUniversity classes are conducted at the firm’s main office in Rockville, Maryland, at its 51,000-sq-ft fabrication shop in nearby Landover, Maryland, as well as online. Some training, such as excavation and heavy equipment operation, is conducted in the field.
The Student Body
All employees have access to S&D YOUniversity training opportunities. Participation is not voluntary. Employees are required to complete three continuing education credits per year, two of them through in-house courses and one through an outside source such as apprenticeship or factory training. In addition, employees are required to complete mandatory safety training. In an effort to improve the industry, S&D opens its in-house classes to firms with whom they are associated.
Apprentices do both classroom training through associations they are affiliated with and on-the-job training at project sites. This time counts toward their Shapiro & Duncan education requirement.
While many firms look outside the organization for training resources and talent, Shapiro & Duncan feels it is important to scan inside to see who has the needed expertise. The company gives its own people the opportunity to share their skills, as opposed to scheduling and paying a third-party provider.
On the apprenticeship side, there are State of Maryland accreditation programs in HVAC, plumbing and pipefitting. Several of Shapiro’s in-house instructors teach in these apprenticeship programs.
In addition, outside vendors come in on a regular basis to present “Lunch and Learn” mini-seminars on the products, equipment or tools they provide.
o Introduction to HVAC, Pipefitting, Basic Electricity, Basic Refrigeration, Blueprint Reading, Hydronics, Torch Cutting, Backflow Certification. Forklift Operation, Heavy Equipment Operation, Crane Rigging, Excavation, Scaffolding, Asbestos Awareness and many more construction-related topics.
o Safety courses including First Aid, CPR and OSHA Construction Orientation and Safety Outreach Training (10-Hour and 30-Hour).
o Plumbing, HVAC and HVAC Controls.
o Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Visio, Project and more
Course Accreditation and Employee Certification
All S&D YOUniversity in-house safety classes have recognized state or national certifications or accreditations. In this connection, our safety director and assistant safety director are both OSHA-certified to teach the 10-hour and 30-hour safety outreach courses.
Apprenticeship programs are nationally and locally accredited. Thanks to articulation agreements with local colleges, apprenticeship participation also earns 32 credits toward an associate’s degree.
In-house classes on purely internal topics such as project management, project scheduling or construction math, while not accredited by outside organizations, must meet the company’s own internal standards for training quality.
Why is employee certification important? Whether it involves a skilled trade where the employee is working on a journeyman’s, journeywoman’s or master’s license, or a skill area in which the employee wants or needs a professional certification — such as design/build, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or human resources – certification attests to their ability to handle a certain level of work. And that is something they can take with them wherever they go in their career.
Any business is comprised of the people in that business, and the success of the company is ultimately driven by those people. That’s why it is so critically important to invest in employees, just as a business invests in IT infrastructure, new equipment or facility improvements. Employee education, training and development should be viewed as a strategic investment opportunity.
Shapiro & Duncan believes that employee training and development leads to greater employee satisfaction which, in turn, yields higher retention rates and, ultimately, better productivity.
Education, training and career development at Shapiro & Duncan are a win-win-win because:
- • Clients benefit from educated and experienced professionals, and skilled and experienced craftspeople who do the job right the first time and deliver on-time and on-budget.
- • Shapiro & Duncan benefits from more productive employees who are current on best practices, yielding repeat business and referrals.
- • At the same time, employees advance in their careers and earn more as they continue career development.