Construction workers possess all kinds of skills, from plumbing to electrical engineering. While they use these skills every day on the job site, they also have the unique opportunity to use their talents to help others.
Some companies raise money or host charity events. Others volunteer their time and talent to help build homes in poor communities or reconstruct buildings after disasters. Regardless of how they choose to use their abilities, when industry leaders step up to make a difference, big things can happen.
One of the most meaningful ways construction teams can make a difference is by volunteering their time and expertise. From building homes for families in need to deconstructing and reconstructing buildings after a disaster, construction professionals can help others by using their fine-tuned skills.
For example, Operation Blessing, a nonprofit organization, gathers construction volunteers from all over to help during the rebuilding and recovery stage of disasters. They look for those in licensed trades like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, engineering, flooring, roofing and more.
Habitat for Humanity, another similar organization, also gathers builders to form specialized teams to aid in disaster relief. However, it also allows groups to form their own teams and partner with families to help build homes at a lower cost. Global Village trips take construction workers out of the U.S. to Cambodia, Fiji, Sri Lanka and other locations.
Sponsoring Local Organizations and Students
Another way construction teams are volunteering and getting involved is by sponsoring organizations within their communities. Whether it's fundraising for nonprofits or offering educational opportunities to local youth, companies are finding ways to support their local organizations and make a difference.
One such company is Mortenson, based in Minnesota. Each year, they sponsor the Breath of Life Gala. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation organizes this annual event to fundraise. A few years ago, they honored Mortenson for leading a $10 million effort in support.
Other companies sponsor events that support charity and awareness, like the Schwob Building Company in Dallas. This firm prides itself on sponsoring child-related causes. In March of 2016, Schwob, along with other area construction companies, helped raise $56,000 for the Children's Health System of Texas. They also sponsor the annual CBRE Chefs Showcase, which supports a summer camp called Camp John Marc.
Finally, construction companies are in a unique position to improve recruitment while expanding construction education to community students. Programs like Caterpillar’s ThinkBIG apprenticeship allows learners to receive specialty training in a variety of construction-related industries, launching a stable career upon completion of the program.
There’s no one way to practice corporate giving. Financial contributions, time and formal programs can all boost the community while giving teams a sense of purpose. Sponsorship and giving should be deeply connected to the personal mission of employees, whether they adopt a cause they have ties to or want to help young people find steady employment in the industry.
There are also many organizations that accept donations of building materials, appliances and other construction supplies for reuse. For example, EcoBuilding Bargains accepts new materials that may be overstocks or have damaged packaging and sells them for up to 75% off the normal retail price. Hundreds of construction companies from all over New England have donated materials over the years.
One construction company called 84 Lumber also donates new and recycled materials to those who need them most. Over the years, they have donated $2.9 million in materials to Habitat for Humanity, helping rebuild more than 350 homes in the process. After Hurricane Katrina, 84 Lumber also sent 20 packages of lumber to New Orleans to help with relief efforts. Habitat used these materials to construct homes throughout the area.
In light of the current public health crisis caused by COVID-19, more construction companies are finding ways to offer support in an uncertain time. Recently, in Nebraska, teams pitched in to donate extra PPE — including N95 masks — to local hospitals. The industry is showing strength as it adapts to uncertain circumstances and works to support those on the frontlines of the crisis.
Hiring Women and Veterans
Many companies have also taken the initiative and are hiring veterans and women, giving everyone a fair chance at a career in construction. This is especially important today, as there is a lack of skilled laborers within the industry. Plus, many women may not feel there's a place for them in construction since they make up just 9% of the industry. However, by granting equal job opportunities for veterans and women, companies can attract new talent and provide people with jobs. It's a win-win situation.
One program that's aimed at helping veterans find jobs in the construction industry is Helmets to Hardhats. This nonprofit matches veterans with apprenticeship programs that will teach them the skills they need to enter the workforce, even if they've never worked in the industry before. The program also partners with Wounded Warriors to help disabled veterans find a job in construction.
Programs like these benefit vets by helping them transition back into civilian life. And they benefit companies by providing them with professional, trained workers. The other groups mentioned here support communities and those in need in their own ways, oftentimes bringing hope to those who feel hopeless.
Construction Teams Can Drive Change
A skilled workforce has endless potential to rebuild communities. Education, community sponsorship and volunteering are only some of the ways in which construction organization can use their skills and passion for the public good. Whether you give a young student a chance in the industry or build homes for those without, you’re making an impact.