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Construction Companies Are Increasingly Grooming Entry-Level Hires For In-House Supervisor Positions

Construction dropped in the first quarter

Construction and development businesses are quickly realizing their projects are most successful when many of the laborers and supervisors are trained from the ground up at one company, rather than hired mid-career.

Employees who spend years crafting their careers with one company not only develop a deeper, more intuitive understanding of the company’s goals, but over time align their careers with them.

Simply training a young and malleable laborer does not a great supervisor make. The promise of higher pay and the ability to oversee complicated, meaningful projects can serve as additional motivation to take on the specific skills required to work up within the company.

“We show entry-level employees that they carry the potential to end up in a higher place if they invest their time with us, and allow us to do the same with them,” said John Parker, executive officer and co-founder of Los Angeles-based construction and development company Parker Brown.

Rendering of The John Buck Co.'s 3Eleven multifamily project

Money is a primary motivator and a number of construction businesses are altering compensation structures accordingly. Supervisors stop earning salaried paychecks upon promotion and begin receiving compensation on an hourly basis. The formula is built to encourage supervisors to work the grueling-yet-necessary weekend hours necessitated by complex projects.

“We want to make sure that we’re compensating you correctly for the work you’re able to do,” Parker said. “That’s a challenge for an employer. Any employee can up and leave if they’re not happy.”

This strategy has enabled Parker Brown to nurture a multi-year, multi-project relationship with UCLA — specifically, the university’s medical facilities. Construction and development workers cannot work on high-end, tech-heavy healthcare jobs from the get-go. Employees often have to gain experience on simpler projects like open co-working offices before progressing to more demanding spaces, including health centers with surgery rooms, oxygen fit-outs and room modifications for patient comfort.

“One of our current supervisors was a laborer who started out small,” Parker said. “He worked his way up from simpler office projects. We’re working on a chemo center for UCLA right now featuring 36 separate spaces. He wouldn’t have been able to supervise these projects without those years of experience with us under his belt.”

Downtown Los Angeles

Further driving this model is the idea of community give-and-take. Many projects initially hire the cheapest labor available, often resulting in lower-quality work and additional money spent to fix the mistakes. A school board or city council considering a project with high community stakes might take more expensive bids on public projects, knowing it will cost less in the long run.

The necessary higher-quality team is composed of laborers who have trained with one company for years. Local employees are more likely to remain in one place over the course of a career and devote that time to community projects and the business they work for, fine-tuning their training in a way that is more difficult to accomplish with mid-career hires.

“You want the projects you create to be sustainable for the community,” said Jeremy Goldberg, executive director of the Tri-Counties Labor Council in Camarillo, Calif.. “It makes political and practical sense to hire locally for local projects. There’s a delicate balance there.”

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