The construction industry continues to experience a short supply of skilled craft professionals, affecting general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and manufacturers alike. One way Cullum works to combat this is by giving back to the community. Cullum has an invested interest in seeing the local community succeed by helping develop a workforce that can fill the job openings for plumbing, sheet metal, fabrication, HVAC services, electrical, and so on. This workforce is willing, ready, and able to get the job done, whether it be installation or repair.
How do you get involved with the community?
Get familiar with your options. Luckily, in South Carolina, Cullum has multiple options, including partnerships with organizations like local school districts, Eckerd Connects, SC Works, Youth with Barriers, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, PAYA, and Lowcountry STEM Collaborative. There are multiple ways to get involved. Nearly all of the industry-related organizations Cullum is a member of, like the Mechanical Contractors Association of South Carolina (MCASC), National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Association of General Contractors (AGC), and the Unified Group, have a great interest in workforce development and are actively working on ways to either:
1. Re-implement craft-related curriculum in K-12 schools
2. Provide job shadowing and training opportunities, or
3. Offer programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which not only offers critical skills training complimentary to eligible participants, but will also try to place them in a work experience with a partnering company.
Encourage your employees to get involved.
This isn’t a one-man or woman battle, and Cullum encourages and supports team members getting involved! Employees are paid their normal wages to go into the schools and local organizations to offer hands-on experiences and serve on advisory boards for many of these organizations. Cullum promotes and sponsors this involvement. After all, it will be worth the return when fresh new faces join our team.
Do you have the same faces showing up at every career fair? That’s where having multiple employees involved and on various levels comes in handy. Cullum isn’t only sending their recruiting or human resources manager to these events; as a commercial mechanical contractor, Cullum utilizes its employees to represent more than just the design-build aspect of projects children seem to be familiar with like engineering and drafting. We also send representatives from the team of apprentices, skilled workers, and superintendents we employ for electrical services, plumbing services, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning repair and installation. It is extremely important to provide a face that is relatable and send the correct person to tell potential future craft professionals what a day at their job is like.
It’s got to be more than career fairs.
What does Cullum mean by that? One example is to host job shadow opportunities. We’ve had multiple groups at our offices this past year; welcoming students from Baptist Hill High School, Wando High School, R.B. Stall High School, and Orangeburg County Girls in STEM Camp. Students visit each part of our operations, from the estimating and bid team where they participated in take-offs, to our pipe fabrication shop, where they got to cut and break some pipe and see welders and fitters in action.
In our training partnership with SC Works, youth participants got to do a little “tin-knocking” and cut some ductwork to set taps. They also got to try their hand at some hot work by cutting, cleaning, and soldering copper pipe. Students enjoyed the opportunity to handle materials and tools Cullum works with daily. The processes being demonstrated and practiced allowed the students to better understand process piping, medical gas, and ventilation as well as allowed an introduction to duct fabrication.
It’s workforce development efforts like this that receive positive results and encourage young people to return and participate again.
Career Specialist Kia Myers from the Berkeley County School District shares Cullum’s passion for workforce development and stated:
“Thank you so much for participating in Cane Bay Middle School Lunch and Learn! Your willingness to share your expertise will impact our students for years to come. We received much positive feedback after the event, as students shared with their peers, teachers, and parents their new or newly reinforced ideas about their career choices. We know that the hard work you do every day does not stop when you leave your job site, and we appreciate the extra hours you worked to catch up. In the same way, you inspired our students, we hope their excitement to learn about your career inspired you.”
Inspiring the future to consider a choice in skilled trades is one of Cullum’s initiatives. We hope for a time when all construction industry organizations are striving to make a change and will come together to pool resources, making it so much more effective. Cullum’s passion for the trades and commitment to helping the next generation be successful goes beyond the mechanical HVAC and plumbing contracting industries. It extends to the entire construction industry’s workforce development efforts.