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Meet Kevin Strahler: 2019 ABC Young Professional of the Year Finalist

From the time Kevin Strahler started doing prefabrication work after graduating high school in 2006, he was hooked. “I could build something with my hands and see the project through from start to finish,” he says. “It was the greatest thing I’d ever done.”
By Maggie Murphy
July 29, 2019
Topics
Workforce

From the time Kevin Strahler started doing prefabrication work after graduating high school in 2006, he was hooked. “I could build something with my hands and see the project through from start to finish,” he says. “It was the greatest thing I’d ever done.”

He climbed the ranks from his beginning as a laborer to his current role as project manager with San Diego-based West Coast Air, a commercial and residential HVAC contractor.

Strahler’s accomplishments earned him the honor of being named one of just three finalists for Associated Builders and Contractors’ annual Young Professional of the Year award.

Strahler never planned on attending college but says he realized he needed to, so he started at community college and eventually transferred and graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in development and management. Graduating in 2010 in the midst of a terrible economy, he headed back into the construction industry. “I wanted to use my hands,” he says.

Strahler’s initial role with West Coast Air included moving rocks, helping with framing and hanging drywall. The superintendent rode him hard, and it was just the push he needed to pursue additional craft training and take the next step in his career.

He joined the ABC San Diego Chapter and started the sheet metal apprenticeship program. “I truly believe you get out what you put in,” he says, and he took advantage of every opportunity the program had to offer.

During the third year of his apprenticeship, Strahler won the local ABC craft competition in San Diego and then traveled to the National Craft Championships and 2017 ABC Convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he won silver in the sheet metal competition.

From then on, Strahler says, “my career was on the fast track thanks to all the people I met at the national competition.”

As part of his ongoing involvement with ABC San Diego, Strahler mentors younger apprentices. Having learned about the ABC Young Professionals program during his trip to the National Craft Championships, he went back to his local chapter president to ask about it and they got their own group going. Neither one of them had past experience with the committee, but they somehow managed to enlist 87 members, and the program is still going strong.

Strahler’s father is a pipefitter by trade, and his uncle is a painting contractor. “Construction has been my life,” he says, “but I never saw the professional side of the industry until I went to NCC in Fort Lauderdale. This industry helps me support my family, own a home and live a fulfilled life.

“My dad is really excited about my construction career. He’s very stoic, very straight-faced, very tough—but construction has become our bond. We can talk about laying pipe or other construction issues and I can tell he’s really proud,” Strahler says.

Outside of work, Strahler’s passion is raising his children, ages 6, 4 and 2. He calls it the hardest thing he has ever done, and admits that the first few years were incredibly difficult.

“I wasn’t around as much as I could have been; I was working too much. I had to slow down and focus on family,” he says.

When asked why he believes so strongly in the industry, Strahler’s response is fairly straightforward: he cares.

“I truly care about ABC. I care about the industry and I care about ABC’s place in the industry. It has given me a life I never could have imagined,” Strahler says.

by Maggie Murphy
Maggie manages all of Construction Executive’s production, scheduling and digital assets, in addition to editing our print content and writing feature articles, industry new briefs and a variety of topical columns. She’s a native Marylander and a graduate of Salisbury University, with a background working on the marketing team for a large general contractor.

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