Opening Minds, and Doors, to Construction Careers | Kraus-Anderson
As one of the nation’s leading construction managers for K-12 school work, Kraus-Anderson Construction teams are accustomed to working in school environments. KA-led construction teams perform intense expansion, remodeling and deferred maintenance projects during the summer break, and throughout the school year to deliver on the needs of school districts throughout the Midwest. In addition, KA professionals increasingly are spending time in the classroom, talking to students about careers in construction.
While KA has provided career information talks to schools for years on request, recently the company stepped up to a more proactive program to spark interest in high school students. Designed for career day explorations in schools and at community gatherings on career development and youth engagement, the 30-minute presentation includes time for Q&A and has been To date, more than three dozen KA professionals and business partners, including project managers, superintendents, project coordinators, IT professionals and skilled trades representatives, have participated, exposing thousands of Minnesota’s young people to the robust career opportunities in construction.
Q. What was the genesis of this effort?
LAURIE TROUSIL, KA COMPANIES DIRECTOR OF INCLUSION & DIVERSITY: The Kraus-Anderson Construction Company Workforce Shortage Committee was founded in 2018 in an attempt to address the current and future labor shortage in the construction industry that impacts KA’s business goals. Strategy was honed and a target audience was determined: Grades 9-12 in schools where KA has a current relationship, potential client, and opportunity to expand its diverse pipelines for future talent. In addition, we’ve been working to strengthen relationships with external partners who can assist us to achieve our mission and goals, through organizations including Construct Tomorrow, Construction Careers Pathways (CCP), ACE Mentor Program and MN Trades Academy. It’s a multi-faceted effort.
Q. Traditionally, many KA employees are multi-generational members of this industry, with parents, siblings, children and/or other family members who have inspired and reinforce this way of life. How are you approaching students who don’t already have this background?
MIKE SMOCZYK, DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, KRAUS-ANDERSON COMPANIES:
A very small percentage of students and parents for that matter are involved in the construction industry. If students and parents do have some awareness of construction, it would be in the residential market and not commercial. Hopefully our presentation can help. An encouraging sign is that many KA high school projects are again including career and technical labs where students can be introduced to technical skills.
TIM MAYER, DIRECTOR, TALENT ACQUISITION, KRAUS-ANDERSON COMPANIES: Some of the latest thinking is that it is very important to get information about the viability (pay, career paths, more use of tech/less wear on body, forecasted industry growth) of careers in construction to the parents, as they can have a great influence on the college/career choices of their students.
Q. What are you telling students about the training and interests needed to work in project management, compared to a field position such as project superintendent?
MIKE SMOCZYK: High school students need to understand the key components of the PM role versus the that of project superintendent. The PM role is largely an office job, working in the business end of construction. This includes budgets, schedules, contracts and codes, as well as construction knowledge. The superintendent role is a “boots on the ground” job, at the construction site every day, managing all aspects of the building process with a focus on safety, quality, production and subcontractor coordination.
Q. What are some of the common questions that the students ask?
MIKE SMOCZYK: What does a typical day look like? How much do you get paid? How does one prepare for jobs? What high school classes are helpful?
Q. What surprises them?
TIM MAYER: The roles in our industry go beyond the preconceptions about the role (i.e. swinging a hammer). Also the use of technology in project delivery.
Photo: KA Project Superintendent Ed Illa and Project Manager Dustin Kempf are the face of construction careers to K-12 students.