As the median age in construction increases, jobsite experience becomes increasingly valuable.
Construction has faced a stark need for workers for years, and as experienced leaders retire, a portending brain drain threatens to impact the way contractors train and educate their employees.
David Frazier, CEO and owner of Nashville, Tennessee-based Hardaway Construction — a 108-employee firm focused on the multifamily sector — knows about the importance of leadership and a good training regimen. Frazier graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1996, before he was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, where he flew four-engine Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance planes.
But when he entered civilian life in 2005, Frazier took his mechanical engineering degree into the private sector, where he still values the chain of command. Here, Construction Dive chats with Frazier about Hardaway’s mentorship program and how it helps to combat an exodus of experience while setting young leaders on a successful career path.
The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: Tell me how your mentorship program works.
David Frazier: We have seven or eight — including me — experienced executive leaders in construction, whether they were senior superintendents or project managers like myself in the field. So, when somebody comes on board, one of us takes them under our wing.
We’ve created what we call the “Hardaway Training Academy,” which has a unique “hard skills” — for lack of a better term — training approach to it, such as learning, from a field side, [quality assurance]-type programs or, from an office side, how to review our files, how to review submittals.
We just take a hands-on leadership program with all of our people. Being the military guy that I am, I like an orderly chain of command. So, our assistant project managers report to our project managers who report to project executives.
We also have the “Hardaway Leadership Academy,” which is more focused on soft skills: conflict resolution, negotiating skills, relationship building. I think sometimes that’s an important side that gets forgotten about. I think it’s really easy to teach somebody how to do the grunt work, the day-to-day task, but I think a lot of people don’t get true leadership training.
How important is it to combat the loss of knowledge as experienced members of the workforce retire and few young recruits join the industry?
It’s really important. Construction is an aging industry, specifically on the field side. I don’t know if it’s a national perception that being a construction worker in the field is a bad job, but I’m here to tell you