Press Release: 08.01.2013

Training Matters

By prioritizing workforce education and mentorship, McCarthy is leading the industry to ensure clients in the Southwest have the best builders available to them.

As commercial building activity begins to pick up, builders like McCarthy are facing a skilled labor shortage. McCarthy’s Southwest Division is based in Arizona, where 130,000-plus laborer positions were shed from a peak of more than 244,000 workers in 2006.

“We’re challenged every day to find qualified candidates to do our work,” said Bo Calbert, president of McCarthy in the Southwest. “The time and effort it takes to get a skilled crew built is probably twice as long as it was 10 years ago.”

As a true builder, McCarthy has been working to combat this national workforce issue through a multi-pronged approach to remain ahead of the curve when it comes to recruiting the best and brightest employees and subcontractors. 

The Value of Training
Because it can be perceived as a perk or benefit, training
is one of the first things contractors slashed when cost-reduction measures needed to be implemented during the recent economic downturn. Rather than look to alternative education methods, many contractors either outsourced or greatly reduced their training programs to reduce costs. Unfortunately, these types of cuts can greatly impact the readiness of the workforce on your next project.

McCarthy has continued its robust training programs and has ramped up its technological training efforts in order to reduce costs without negatively impacting training. In 2013, McCarthy’s training and development program was ranked as the sixth best training program in America across all industries by Training Magazine and the #1 employee training program in the construction industry.

“We use tools that focus on each employee individually,” said Christina Mohler, human resources manager for McCarthy’s Southwest Division. “This approach enables our training department to better target areas for improvement and increase skill level, proficiency, knowledge and technique.”

Mohler adds that McCarthy focuses on peer group training sessions, team building exercises, online training and jobsite training to offer diverse experiences for its employees.

In the Southwest, there are 39 peer group trainings scheduled for 2013, covering everything from compliance with federal regulations and safety topics to issues management and quality control. Internal “training champions” have been identified within each peer group (i.e., project engineers, project managers, superintendents) who lead the planning efforts for their team throughout the year with the guidance of Mohler.

“We’ve been expanding our efforts and including more employees as part of the training process,” Mohler said. “Last year, we had eight training champions, and we’ve grown that group to 26 this year.”

Team building exercises are also scheduled in order for employee peer groups to connect and learn from each other. Since McCarthy employees are often separated based on the projects to which they are assigned, it’s important to foster opportunities for them to reconnect as a group on a social level, leading to more open communication in the workplace.

McCarthy’s interactive online training curriculum, called McCarthy Build U®, offers a personalized training tool for all employees. It tracks required courses and mandated certifications and also offers several hundred elective courses. Typically courses are recommended for an employee based on their individual development plans and growth opportunities. One area of focus this year has been developing leadership skills.

On-the-job training topics — the most prevalent training courses at McCarthy — are incorporated weekly at every McCarthy project site and cover a range of topics, many of which are jobsite specific.

Looking to the Future
McCarthy’s Southwest Division is also taking a proactive approach to the skilled labor shortage by expanding its internship program and partnering with local vocational schools, such as the Western Maricopa Education Center and Metro Tech High School in Phoenix, to encourage careers in construction.

“We’ve had to get really serious about focusing on where we can find young people who we can mentor into the trades to not just do the trades work but also grow to be the future superintendents and project managers of our industry,” Calbert said. “There’s a great opportunity for us to put a big dent in this shortage of workers by working directly with these schools and having students work side-by-side our employees on hands-on projects.”

As an example, employees from McCarthy have been working with students in the Construction Technologies program at Metro Tech High School within the Phoenix Union High School District over the past year.

Rick Schapler, lead instructor for the program, has taken the school’s Construction Technologies class from the brink of cancellation to a robust class with 31 students finishing this year and 55 enrolled next fall.

“My goal was to bring diverse real-world experiences within the construction industry to my students, and McCarthy has helped me do that by working hands-on with students on everything from building roof gables to staircases,” Schapler said. “The students also had the opportunity to tour jobsites and spend a day at McCarthy’s regional headquarters meeting key players in the company.”

McCarthy Southwest also greatly expanded its summer college internship program this year, growing the program to approximately 25 interns this summer.

“Training is a priority supported from the top down at McCarthy,” Mohler said. “We view it as a critical investment that not only improves the skills and knowledge levels of our workforce, but ultimately gives us a strong advantage over our competition, many of whom slashed training and mentorship programs in recent years.”

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