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Bridging the gap

image Associations across Houston and the state of Texas are struggling to connect with and keep the new generation of construction professionals.

HOUSTON - The way people get information, communicate and market for their business has changed drastically over the years, and Houston construction associations are finding ways to adjust.






     Brianna Wright is the Executive Director of the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) Houston Chapter. Wright and the ASA are focused on reaching out to the 35-and-under demographic.
     “We are concentrating on getting those individuals involved,” she said. “We want to let people know that these are the future leaders of the companies.
    “We’re working on getting them together for networking at an event so they can get to know each other. We actually opened it up to anyone in the construction industry. We opened this up to general contractors, architects and anyone in the construction industry. We are trying to create a place where these people can get together and build relationships.”
    Jennifer King is the president of Young Professionals Committee with the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Houston. Young Professionals began in late 2015 to reach out to this missing younger group. After having five to seven attendees early on at the ABC office, King moved the group to bars and restaurants inside the loop to allow people on job sites to attend. In 2016, the leadership of the Young Professionals added seminars and charity events to the networking opportunities.
    “We started doing big events that were like ABC events,” King said. “We did a corn hole tournament where we raised money for ABC scholarships and our committee itself. That event alone was the same amount of people that you would have at a normal ABC event – around 100 people. Typically we are at around 20 people at our events.”
    To get the younger generation involved, Tyler Althouse started the Building Leaders Development Group (BLDG), a networking opportunity group.
    Althouse leads and is an advocate for BLDG after seeing the benefits from being part of ASA from early in his career.
    “The comradery and the networking have been big,” Althouse said. “I’ve gotten some mentoring opportunities because I started in the ASA and began going to meetings about eight years ago. At that point, I was about 26 and some of the people just took me under their wing and helped me out. I got on the Houston board four or five years ago, and when I got there the people really started helping me out with general business and personal life.”
    Althouse, vice president and general manager of Texas Moisture Protection, believes it is on upper management to get the new crop of future managers and leaders involved.
    “Most of the senior management is older and I don’t think they direct their younger managers to get involved,” Althouse said. “I don’t think they push them to get involved. I think they see it as a benefit or entitlement that they go to these functions. I don’t think it’s lack of  interest from the younger people. I think their management isn’t telling them to get involved.”
    Instead of changing the way people think or how they work, Wright says it is on the association to adjust.
    “This is not just a construction or association thing; it’s a world-wide thing,” Wright said. “We don’t need to change it. We have to figure out how to embrace it.
    “I don’t think we change what we do. I think we change how we do it. When you do something over and over, it’s hard to come up with a new idea. The last networking event we had was at 2:30 p.m. and the other four we did, we did were at 5 p.m. We got an OK response, and the last one we did was on St. Patrick’s Day and we had a huge turnout. What we heard most was that they could leave work and get home at my normal time. That is hugely important. It was big eye-opener to us.”
    King, who is also the marketing director for Teal Construction Company, sees the Young Professionals as a chance for members to advance their careers.
    “Different people give their reasons why they’re involved,” King said. “Even though we’re all competitors, we are all going through the same things. It doesn’t matter if you’re with Harvey or Teal, day-to-day you’re going through the same things. It’s nice to have comradery with other young professionals where you can talk about successes or issues you are having.”–cs

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Chris Schoonover chris@constructionnews.net