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Construction is an industry filled with potential for people with a wide range of skillsets. The industry not only has careers for project engineers, but also provides countless opportunities in marketing, accounting, human resources, business development, preconstruction and more. Construction is unique because it is one of the rare industries that provides lucrative job opportunities for skilled laborers—carpenters, welders, ironworkers and equipment operators—whose education is on-the-job training.

The thousands of students who graduate from high school each year can pursue a career in construction without a college degree and achieve success through hands-on experience and mentorship opportunities. 
Due to the plethora of professionals and building contractors involved with every project, the construction industry lends itself well to mentorship which is an important element to success. The best mentor-protégé relationships are those that are built authentically. These relationships allow for better communication and willingness. Many people in the industry who have had mentors are still in touch with them today. They have genuine relationships where and often feel comfortable enough to share ideas and concerns.
Below are a few ways construction and other professionals can leverage mentor relationships to lead the industry through the next several decades of its continued growth. 

Understand the “Why”

Mentorship starts with teaching the “why.” Why is someone working on a task? Why does this task matter to a job? Why does this job matter to the organization?

Understanding the “why” creates purpose and instills a strong drive and reason to achieve success. When people understand the why, they are often more receptive and willing to listen, and learn and ultimately can communicate that in the future when they become a mentor themselves. The “why” is crucial in any career because it provides the backbone and sense of mission for the work being done. 

Teach Soft Skills

Mentors can teach what is not taught in textbooks. Construction requires many skills beyond the expected technical elements. Engineers are often hired right out of school and need mentors to teach them the professional side of the business—the soft skills such as understanding how people work, decision making, active listening and how to work based on these observations—that will help them progress in their careers and potentially make the difference in how they do business.

Find a Mentor/Be a Mentor

Although mentorship is most often successful when the relationship is developed naturally, a successful mentorship can also develop through organized mentor-protégé programs. Organizations can develop their own programs for mentoring small or minority-owned businesses. These unique programs allow small businesses to learn best practices, industry nuances and growth strategies from larger companies. As the mentor-protégé relationship grows over time, it can result in a long-standing business relationship.  

Skanska has two training initiatives designed specifically to bring growing companies into contact with senior leaders via the Construction Management Building Blocks Program and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Compliance Program. These programs have been integral in helping minority, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprise subcontractors build stronger businesses and stronger relationships within the larger construction community.  
Initiatives like these lead to more diverse networks and prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts that allow industry leaders to take measurable steps to recruit and train men and women from a variety of backgrounds. According to McKinsey & Co., bringing together people with varied experiences and backgrounds promotes creative problem solving and decision making. Promoting diversity in the industry—and thereby opening the doors to greater employee engagement, business innovation and performance—is a strong solution for ensuring future success.

Foster Community

Underscoring all of these suggestions is the need to constantly instill values, communicate with and listen to others and build community every day. Skanska has incorporated a daily check-in called “stretch and flex.” During this morning activity, employees get ready to hit the job site and take the opportunity to discuss a “values moment” for the day from a leader or an individual worker on the team. This practice fosters an open and honest community mindset in which people can speak in front of their peers and gain trust and insight from them as well. 

Incorporating mentorship programs in its myriad forms is essential to help companies develop future employees and business partners and, even better, boosts the industry’s workforce development efforts. By pursuing opportunities for diversification, partnerships and education, the construction industry has the ability to develop a strong group of young professionals equipped with the skills and connections to handle the changing construction landscape for generations to come. 
With experienced and dedicated mentors maintaining channels of communication and collaboration, a culture of nurturing success is established. Over time, recipients of this guidance can take what they learned and pass it on to another generation, continuing the cycle of developing strong professionals that bring wisdom and experience to construction projects throughout the region.


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