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    Investing in the Future of Construction

    December 20, 2019

    Successful building projects require a competent and sizable workforce. Developing the future talent requires a two-fold process. First, the opportunities need to be showcased to young people who may have never been exposed to the industry. Then, when students reach college, they need a bridge to the work world they are training to be a part of. Balfour Beatty had recent opportunities to support both efforts at two premier Florida higher education institutions: Florida International University and the University of Florida.

    Kelly Valle, assistant program manager with Balfour Beatty, is a graduate of Florida International University (FIU) in Miami with a master’s degree in construction management. Today she is a key coordinator of building activities at River Landing, a 2.4 million square foot, mixed-use development along the Miami river. Her influence on the profession goes beyond her current project assignment.

    Kelly was recently involved with a new program at FIU over the summer called “She Builds Summer Camp.” This two-day event sponsored by FIU’s School of Construction is designed to expose high school girls to the industry. Twenty-five high school students from Miami-Dade County were part of this event which included hands-on activities and discussions. Kelly was on a panel of women who answered questions and shared her experience working in the industry. Many young women are now aware of the good-paying and exciting opportunities available in construction.

    Once young people reach college and start on the path to a construction management degree, Balfour Beatty supports their efforts. Through Balfour Beatty’s internship program, many FIU students have been offered full-time positions after completing their degree. Mike Carlin, SVP - operations at Balfour Beatty, recently spoke highly of the students who have come to the company after graduating from FIU. A recent $40,000 donation made possible from a charity golf tournament supported generously by Balfour Beatty subcontractors, vendors and partners will also provide scholarships for FIU students in the School of Construction program.

    Ahead of FIU’s fall career fair, Earnest DeLoach, VP - legal for Balfour Beatty’s Florida operations, met with John Volakis, dean of FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing, and Dr. Jose Faria, dean of FIU’s Moss School of Construction. Both extolled the strength of FIU’s ongoing relationship with Balfour Beatty and the construction managers’ willingness to participate in guest lectures and other professional development opportunities going forward. Earnest commented that he “was struck by the academic success, professional maturity and ambitious spirit of the students he met – a clear recognition of the academic rigor and career preparation provided by FIU.”

    In Gainesville, Balfour Beatty’s academic support continued at the University of Florida (UF). The Rinker School of Construction’s annual career fair is a proving ground for both students and construction companies. Making personal connections is critical to a good first impression, which is true not only for the students looking to jump start their future careers, but also the 100 other companies like Balfour Beatty competing for top talent.  

    With a desire to go above and beyond to further connect with UF students before the career fair, Balfour Beatty worked with the Rinker School of Construction Management professors to plan educational activities. Focusing on what was important to students and their curriculum, Balfour Beatty prepared three days of learning material led by operations, safety and estimating experts.   

    On Monday, Neal Ernest (operations director) led a resume workshop with over 50 students in the UF Student Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Rinker School. During the two-hour session, he shared how to make a resume stand out from others, create connections during the career fair, and more. The session was informal, with pizza and soda. Neal offered to personally review and provide comments on students’ resumes. That night he read 35 resumes and provided his feedback to students the following morning.

    On Tuesday, Don Rolfe (chief estimator) and Mac Hoenicke (project executive) partnered with an electrical subcontractor, Terry’s Electric, to guest lecture for the Rinker School’s “Electrical Systems” class. On Wednesday, Eric Garcia (senior safety manager) and Neal Ernest discussed various construction safety-related topics with two classes at the Rinker School. They stressed the important role general contractors play in creating a culture of safety on the jobsite.

    Thursday’s UF annual fall career fair was the culminating event. A non-stop line of familiar faces showed up at Balfour Beatty’s table throughout the day. By the end of the career fair, seven interviews were scheduled for the following week and multiple internship offers, with a 75% acceptance rate, were made. In a competitive market full of talented students, taking the time to invest in their education and personal development has proven value.

    The future of construction depends on a fluid and interdependent relationship between the academic institutions and the construction industry. Lighting the spark of interest early and supporting those on the learning path to building is a wise investment. It is a financial and social imperative not only for Balfour Beatty, but the future of the industry.