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Focus – Construction Education - Education resources available and varied

image Tommy Campbell, Vice President of Operations, MYCON General Contractors, Dallas, TX

DALLAS/FORT WORTH – How has employee training impacted employee performance and/or productivity for your organization? MYCON is focused on creating a great learning environment. While we hire qualified personnel for both our field and home office operations, we believe that ongoing training helps each individual achieve a greater level of productivity and performance. We believe in building and sharing a comprehensive knowledge base through our in-house training and our jobsite experiences. The greater each person is exposed to diverse construction challenges and solutions, the better his or her performance on-site and job growth.

    Of course, technology has been a game changer.
    Years ago, on my first jobsite, we had one computer that eight people shared and that provided our labor cost reports. Today, you have iPads, iPhones, laptops, mobile apps, and we are so well-connected to real-time information that our projects rely on these tools to help us track our budgets, change orders, and progress with great speed and accuracy.

What training is your company focusing on now?
    We are developing MYCON University. We have many MYCON professionals who are passionate about their work and have developed quality performance initiatives that can be shared and replicated across the company. The idea is to provide an exchange of our company knowledge of complex construction projects that will benefit our project managers, superintendents, project engineers and project coordinators. We are building a curriculum and implementation plan, which will enable us to conduct 80 percent of our training in-house. This kind of proprietary training will not only distinguish us as a general contractor but also enable us to control training costs.

What areas of education need to be improved to better serve the industry?
    So much of the training currently focuses on the technical side. But with our clients and projects, behavioral training comes into play. I’ve been in the construction industry for more than 28 years, and throughout my career, some of the best training I’ve received was behavioral-based.
    People don’t often think about behavioral training when they put their programs together but the results can be profound. For example, one of the best books for learning how to talk with your customers is called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High.
    Learning how to talk to a variety of clients in a wide range of situations is an invaluable educational experience.
    There’s another challenge in our industry today, and that is time management. Our clients are expecting us to perform faster and leaner than ever before. This puts a lot of extra stress on our teams.
    The demands on our time have also exploded with so many channels of communication from emails, texting, meetings and social media. Using training from Effective Edge, for example, enables our project teams to understand how to manage incoming data and emails with a specific plan that allows you to carve out time for yourself. The general idea is to learn how to do it, defer it, or delegate it which keeps you from handling data multiple times and allows you to handle just once, eliminating a lot of wasted time.

What are ways to attract young people to the industry?
    The millennials are a learning generation. If the information is relevant and the intrinsic value is understood, then young people will embrace this training. Even field personnel who have been with us for decades will respond favorably if you have the relevant information. There’s a payoff, too, if you position these seasoned personnel to become trainers for the younger team members. That cross-generational training experience is a plus for the whole company.

What opportunities for construction education are available at area high schools and universities?
    There are many good programs statewide because our industry is going strong. In North Texas, for example, the Dallas Independent School District offers pathways in construction, welding, business management and information technology, which are important pathways for the construction industry. Texas State Technical College in Waco has a two-year program in Building Construction Technology. They also focus on workforce readiness as an educational outcome. I plan to be there at the career fair in March to recruit. Of course, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, OU and OSU have developed excellent programs and are top choices for recruitment.

Are scholarships available for construction education?
    I have served on TEXO’s Research and Education Foundation. The TEXO Foundation raises money throughout the year through the support of TEXO members and many of these funds are earmarked for Region V universities and students.
    For young people who are interested in a career in our industry, ACE-DFW funds a scholarship program for students who choose a post-high school course of study leading to a career in the building industry. This program has awarded scholarships worth more than $100,000.
    The AGC Education and Research Foundation has awarded more than $8 million in scholarships to more than 3,000 students enrolled in the ABET or ACCE-accredited construction management or construction-related engineering programs.
    And the good news is that women are moving into our industry and moving up the ranks with support from organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) that offers more than $25,000 in scholarships.
    I can’t think of any time in my career that has been as exciting as younger generations help to develop and embrace new construction technologies and find their own career paths and opportunities that our industry offers.
    Established in 1987, MYCON General Contractors Inc. offers design-build services, BIM, Lean construction, LEED/sustainable construction, construction management and professional project supervision. –mjm

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Sue Johnson sjohnson@constructionnews.net