Founded in 1961, Turner Industries (Turner) is a privately owned contractor that builds, maintains and services the nation’s heavy industrial sector. Today, Turner is the No. 1 contractor on Engineering News-Record’s annual Top Contractors list for Texas and Louisiana, with regional revenue totaling $2.37 billion in 2014. Turner has held this ranking since 2011.
Working on some of the largest projects in the country, Turner is acutely aware of the skilled workforce shortage facing the construction and maintenance industries. Turner primarily relies on its own network of qualified craft professionals to adequately staff its projects. However, as workforce shortages worsen, Turner increasingly utilizes its partnerships with local schools to recruit new workers and help close the skills gap.
To connect with schools, Turner leverages its partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chapters in each of the geographic areas that it operates. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ABC Pelican Chapter acts as a facilitator of industry-education pathways for its member contractors. ABC Pelican Chapter identifies local career and technical education (CTE) programs and establishes a point of contact; typically craft instructors, career counselors and principals. ABC Pelican Chapter then provides this list of schools to its member contractors at an annual school selection meeting for contractors to pick schools they want to support. Partnerships are formalized in three-way adoption agreements between the school, the contractor and ABC Pelican Chapter. Agreements vary based on school needs and programs, but Turner has provided CTE instructors for evening classes, as well as consumables for classrooms. By providing resources – often surplus goods – where school budgets fall short, Turner is able to make a large impact in classrooms.
“Understanding schools’ needs and meeting them go a long way. Instructors usually need resources that are clear and tangible – things like fire-resistant clothing for welding programs or NCCER manuals,” said Ray Neck, training manager for Turner. Donating needed items not only provides students with better learning experiences, instructors are more inclined to refer exceptional graduates to Turner.
Turner regularly participates in events like job fairs, banquets and career days to engage with schools and build personal relationships with CTE instructors. Through these relationships, an open dialogue is established that helps inform instructors of the needs facing industry, which prepares students to fill in-demand jobs.
In addition, Turner offers all students at its partner schools fully-funded scholarships to attend evening training classes at ABC Pelican Chapter. These scholarships, and the NCCER programs they support, give students a head start on their careers. Successful completion of NCCER craft training provides graduates with a better opportunity of being hired by Turner.
Currently, Turner has relationships with over 20 high schools and technical colleges in Louisiana and Texas and continues to expand its network because of how well prepared the students are for careers at Turner.
“Those with industry-specific craft training tend to stick around longer and move up through the ranks at Turner because they decided to make a commitment to the craft early on,” said Neck.
To support education partnerships, ABC Pelican Chapter coordinates regional career day events that expose students to various crafts, as well as contractors like Turner. The chapter combines resources from member contractors and invites all of the schools in the region to one event to showcase in-demand crafts and contractors with available career opportunities for those crafts. ABC Pelican Chapter manages all the logistics, which reduces the administrative burden on Turner. Turner and other area contractors supply the speakers, subject matter experts and even lunch for the event.
Utilizing ABC Chapters also helps ensure that for Turner has a consistent pipeline of potential employees since the chapter conducts most of Turner’s craft training for the Baton Rouge area. Students that seek out additional training at ABC Pelican Chapter while in high school are familiar with the training process, the instructors and Turner before graduation.
Students that come to work at Turner with NCCER Core credentials have a solid foundation, said Neck. However, this industry-education pathway does not end here, and Turner is committed to developing its employees and maximizing their potential.
Turner has developed and defined clear career paths for each of its crafts, which enable its craft professionals to identify career progression opportunities. Employees use Turner’s career paths to determine the role they ultimately want to have in the company and the steps required to get there. Once a career path is identified, a recommendation is made for training and assessments, certifications and experience to advance to the next step. This process takes into consideration an employee’s current position, experience and training level.
“We take pride in developing our people and keeping them for a long time,” said Neck. “We see and meet their needs as they grow at Turner. The construction industry is always changing, and we are always looking for ways to better serve our people. It’s important to make it as easy as you can on your employees. Treat them right, and they will treat you right.”
Turner’s career paths are broken into four tiers. The first tier consists of new high school graduates, entry-level workers and helpers. Tier-one employees looking to advance to the second tier must complete NCCER training and receive credentials. After becoming NCCER Certified Plus, employees advance to the second tier, which includes journeymen and craft leaders. Successful second-tier employees can advance to the third tier, also known as a multi-tier, which includes project managers, supervisors, safety advisers and quality assurance and quality control employees. Finally, employees can advance into Turner’s fourth tier, which consists of executives and upper-level management.
When it comes to industry-education pathways, Neck says success relies on strong relationships with schools. At the core of any partnership is making sure everyone understands how collaboration is profitable. Schools benefit by through high placement numbers, and students excel in and beyond the classroom. For Turner, hiring career-ready graduates is essential for maintaining a qualified workforce and overcoming the skills gap. Turner understands the value of hiring and retaining craft professionals, and its approach to workforce development is comprehensive; from the classroom and through the duration of a career.