Boston Mentor Program Meeting Demand for Skilled Construction Workers

| January 23, 2018

Group at site (l-r) Nicole Richer, CMG LLC; Richard Walsh, president and CEO of Walsh Brothers; BFIT students Lillia Sakher, Ardi Elshani, and Djilali Chaker; and Dan Goudovitch, Walsh Brothers / photo by Walsh Brothers

Boston – The Compliance Mentor Group (TCMG)’s Construction Mentor Program is helping students from Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) and Madison Park Technical Vocational High School gain experience and skills they need to get well-paying jobs in the high-demand construction industry.

In Boston’s current construction boom, more than $10 billion in building and renovation is taking place at nearly 80 sites across the city. Since the average construction project costs $166 million, having skilled construction workers is essential. However, statistics show these workers are hard to find, especially female and minority ones. The National Association of Home Builders says the percentage of unfilled jobs in construction is at a 15-year high. This skills gap is exacerbated by Boston Resident Job policy, which requires that construction companies hire at least 40% minorities and at least 12% women.

Group fills out logs in trailer.

The Construction Mentor Program (CMP) aims to close that gap through authentic learning at a Harvard Business School construction site overseen by Walsh Brothers, Inc. “The program allows contractors and subcontractors to mentor young people and find skilled workers,” says Nicole Richer, owner of TCMG. “The students gain valuable workforce readiness skills and get to network with construction professionals.” The program is in its sixth year.

“Every year, it has been eye opening for our students to begin to understand all that goes into a commercial project,” says BFIT Director of Career Services and Industry Partnerships Emily Leopold. “Mentees witness first-hand the monumental level of coordination that is necessary between a variety of stakeholders and contractors in order to complete an extremely complex project on time and within budget.” Leopold also praised the connections students make through the program, which lead many of them to find jobs.

The number of students was winnowed down through three phases from an original group of 29 in October to a final group of eight. Five of the students are from BFIT and three are from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. Students who are chosen must have a good academic record, show aptitude and interest in the construction field, and be able to benefit from the program. This year’s project is Harvard Business School’s Klarmen Hall. The building is approximately 90,000sf in size and is expected to be completed in October 2018.

Christopher Hanson, 30, of Brockton starts his job as a field engineer at Callahan Construction Managers at 6:30am each morning, but he doesn’t mind. The BFIT graduate says the recommendation he got from the Walsh Brothers project manager he worked with at the CMP last year facilitated his job search. Hanson says the onsite program helped him apply what he learned in his Construction Management college classes at BFIT. “Things clicked about information we were tested about in class,” Hanson says.

CMP also connected him with a mentor in his area of interest and taught him about networking. He recommends the program to anyone majoring in construction management at BFIT.

Current Construction Mentor Program student Lillia Sakher,29, just celebrated the first anniversary of her arrival in the U.S. She is originally from Algeria and joined her husband in the United States in January of 2017 after earning her Master’s Degree in Architecture, Civil Engineering and Town Planning in France. She is currently in her first year at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, where she is scheduled to earn an Associate Degree in Construction Management in the spring of 2019.  Sakher says the onsite experience of the Construction Mentor Program has opened her eyes to what she will be doing after she graduates. She values the industry connections she’s made and how the program has improved her ability to communicate in English, which is her fourth language.

“The energy and the drive we have seen in the students who come to our job sites from BFIT would have made Ben Franklin proud,” said Richard C. Walsh, President & CEO of Walsh Brothers, Inc. “It’s amazing that 300 years ago Franklin had the foresight to set aside scholarships to ensure that all young people of Boston and Massachusetts have the opportunity to study a trade.  At Walsh Brothers we echo those sentiments and are committed through our own apprenticeship programs and CMP student training to ensure a diverse and talented workforce.” The students will spend one day per month on the Walsh Brothers construction site at Harvard Business School through May of 2018.

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