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 “I think our industry lost quite a bit of people in the last downturn and never really recovered. So, as an industry, we’re challenged,” he said, adding that cast- ing a net for a more diverse workforce, including more women, would help.
Fontaine agrees, noting that Liz Wambui, the firm’s director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Impact since 2021, has made some positive headway in work- force matters.
“It’s great to see the construction industry embrace diversity in the workplace,” he said. “When we talk about the workforce, there’s certainly a focus on inclu- sion — a broad mix of people of color and women, peo- ple who represent the area that we’re building. We want to help them not only get into the trades, but be success- ful in the trades.
“That’s where Liz goes above and beyond; she works with different partners on pathways into the industry, and once someone is in the industry, she partners with them to help them transition from project to project and make those first couple of years a success so they can have a long-term career.”
Considering the current challenges, Fontaine added, “a lot of Liz’s role is focused on the workforce generally. It’s a need we have across all the trades we work with, and we’ve done some innovative things, like partnering with unions, which are very forward-thinking and help- ful in coming up with ways to attract people into the trades and keep them.”
Something to Build On
Some of the challenges of today’s construction indus- try are sector-specific, like the trend toward hospitals being acquired by national players, as in the case of Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health.
“Where that becomes a challenge is the powers that
be are located elsewhere, and decisions are being made halfway across the country for things that are local,” Pel- letier said. “They don’t necessarily understand the com- plexities of the local market.”
Hassanein said it’s a good time to work in education because many colleges are prioritizing energy efficiency and carbon neutrality, and DOC is helping them achieve those goals over a number of years. “We’re at Mount Holyoke, Trinity, and Amherst right now, for example. Those are multi-year projects.”
Some of this work is still in its infancy, he added,
but it’s expanding quickly. “It’s definitely a great place to be. Almost every academic institution has a goal estab- lished, with a deadline, and until now, they’ve been kind of waiting because the technologies have been changing at a rapid pace, so they didn’t want to invest a lot too early and realize that it’s outdated. But now, the clock is ticking, and they’re all in full motion.
“We’re always evolving, and you have to be a compa- ny that’s nimble enough to evolve with the environment that you have,” Hassanein went on. “The continuous- change element is a really key part of any company’s success going forward.”
Fontaine agrees that sustainability, green building, and new technology are exciting elements of construc- tion today, but he added that another aspect of his firm’s success is not getting too busy when times are busy.
“A lot of people will chase whatever the new sector is, whatever they think the new geography is; they want to grow just to grow and do as much volume as possi- ble. Our goal is always to do as good a job as we can on projects where we can be successful and execute.”
Despite the workforce challenges, he added, “I think the industry is in a good place. It’s been a positive pro- fession for the last 20-something years that I’ve been in it.” BW
“When we
talk about the workforce, there’s certainly a focus on inclusion — a broad mix of people of color and women, people who represent the area that we’re building. We want to help them not only get into the trades, but be successful in the trades.”
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