A recent report from The Washington Post shows that the number of women joining the construction industry has started to climb, up 117 percent since 2016. While women only make up 16 percent of construction workers in the U.S., this momentum is expected to continue as more people become educated about career opportunities in the trades. Electrical-industry leader Rosendin shares how the firm has successfully recruited and retained women.
First off, give us some background on Rosendin.
Rosendin is the largest employee-owned electrical contractor in the nation that designs, builds, and renovates commercial structures for health care, residential, institutional and hospitality, as well as data centers and renewable energy.
Our core values are focused on innovation, listening to our team members and developing an inclusive culture where every individual has the opportunity to grow professionally.
We strive for all 8,000 team members nationwide at Rosendin to feel safe and welcome, whether on a job site with other subcontractors or at one of our 20 regional offices.
The construction industry has been facing a workforce shortage for years, is that the same for Rosendin?
The skilled labor workforce shortage caused by retiring Baby Boomers and exasperated by the pandemic has hit the electrical industry hard, and it’s only getting worse as the country ramps up the demand for electric vehicles and clean energy.
Rosendin works closely with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to provide equity in wages, health benefits, training and retirement benefits. Even though we are one of the biggest electrical contractors in the country, we experience the same recruiting difficulties as local firms serving residential customers. When we can show potential employees who we are, and they see all the possibilities open to them, it usually leads to them choosing us. But our biggest challenge is just getting people in the door.
How does Rosendin get people in the door and is it different for recruiting women?
The industry as a whole has been pulling employees from the same pool of workers, but it’s not enough. We’re trying to change the mindsets of the next generation through community outreach aimed at young people, women and those who may not have previously considered a career in construction. We attend career fairs, roundtables and events that let us conduct hands-on activities to demonstrate the wide range of opportunities available to a job seeker. We also recruit at colleges and sponsor events, like the annual AGC Student Competition in Reno, Nev., where we can talk one-on-one with top college students about our summer internship program.
Like most construction companies, we look to our team members to spread the word about the benefits of working at Rosendin, and we are proud that we have employees who bring in their family, friends and prior coworkers. We have had employees recruit teachers, health-care workers, military veterans and newspaper copy editors, who all made the transition successfully.
Once they join Rosendin, they experience how the company is committed to building our people, not just projects. We have developed Rosendin Boot Camps that expose our employees to other career paths, which has been incredibly successful. We’ve seen office managers and receptionists shift into BIM, Estimating and Assistant Project Managers who then move on to oversee major building projects.
In addition, Rosendin’s robust Training Department provides assistance and courses for certifications, professional development through LinkedIn Learning, and personalized coaching and workshops designed to uncover an individual’s unique talents and help teams work together more effectively.
Many women fear they won’t be welcome on job sites. How does Rosendin combat that?
We are fighting stereotypes that are so deeply ingrained into our society that many women will never even consider a job in construction. Tools and technology have leveled the playing field, but there are still concerns. That’s why we’ve spent years developing an inclusive culture where everyone can feel physically and mentally safe.
Rosendin has zero tolerance for discrimination, including bullying, and we strive to build a diverse, safe, and welcoming culture for our employees and partners.
There are many tools out there to help companies build a supportive culture that we recommend. In 2020, Rosendin committed to AGC’s Culture of Care, which provides tools and information about creating safe workplaces, retaining employees by removing barriers to advancement and empowering every employee to promote a diverse culture.
We also identify subcontractors and vendors that share our beliefs, including how they support women-owned businesses and those owned by underrepresented communities. Using software tools like Highwire helps us identify subcontractors that are dedicated to safe and inclusive cultures.
What kind of programs have you implemented to make people feel more comfortable?
We have added training models to ensure women have mentors and professional development programs that team members can complete online. We also implemented diversity and awareness training, like our unconscious bias training program, that helps people recognize and address microaggressions.
In addition, we also have added new pipelines for people to report problems, for example our Craft Empowerment Program (CEP). CEP gives our craft workers a direct line to project management and company leadership. Members of CEP are working field employees, identified by their different-color vests. These members are available to answer questions about safety and quality and provide an outlet for our project teams to make suggestions on how to make our project sites safer, introduce innovations, or build camaraderie amongst contractors, for example. These representatives take input and report it up the chain to ensure every team member’s concerns and suggestions are reviewed. This has been incredibly popular to identify and address issues before they become disruptive.
How do we change perceptions about the industry?
The construction industry has a severe image problem, so we are trying to educate young people early. Our Workforce Development Teams and local offices work with teachers and counselors from college to middle school to expose students to skilled trades through presentations, field trips and hands-on STEM programs. Our teams are also working on ways to get skilled trades training back into high schools. For example, in Oregon, our team helped build a high school where they collaborated with the welding teacher to bring in a different subcontractor every week to give a presentation to students. Some students were also given the opportunity to work on an active construction site building their new school!
Conversations with younger students about trade careers need to start around third grade.
In Arizona, we have been a longtime partnership with Junior Achievement (JA), which prepares students to succeed in work and life through skills to manage money, plan for their future, and make smart academic, career and economic choices. Our teams participate in career exploration events like JA BizTown in Phoenix and give presentations to sixth- and seventh-grade students when they start thinking about their careers. For the last three years, team members throughout the country collaborated with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to sponsor a summer construction camp for junior-high girls in Austin, Texas. The camp attendees learn how to wire lamps, use an electric drill, operate heavy machinery, gain carpentry skills and much more. When their lamps light up, and they see what they were able to build, their eyes light up and we know we have empowered her for life.
How do you address stereotypes in a male-dominated industry?
We acknowledge that most construction workers are men, but their work is not exclusive to men, so, at Rosendin, we are trying to shift away from the thinking that our job sites are “male-dominated.” We have women serving as senior vice presidents, vice presidents, and division managers, leading teams building data centers, high-rises and other complex commercial buildings throughout the country. These leaders see equality, and we support their efforts through training and education.