One of the hottest topics in the construction industry is dealing with an ever increasing shortage of skilled workers. In Alberta alone, I’ve seen forecasts ranging from a shortage of 75,000 to 120,000 workers over the next decade. The Australian government predicts Australia’s LNG production sector will face a shortage of about 36,000 skilled workers by 2015 — and thats just the LNG sector. The reality is, many skilled workers are reaching retirement age, Oil &Gas projects are expanding in scope, and as a result, any country where large capital Oil & Gas projects are in flight or kicking off has to get very creative to address this labour shortage.

The Construction Industry Institute Annual Conference was focused on this specific theme. Their two-day agenda covered not only strategies for developing skilled workers, but also focused on building the next generation of leaders within the construction industry.

Acceptance Speech by Joseph “Bud” Ahearn.

During his acceptance speech, Bud made a significant impact on how I looked at our own business. Bud delivered one of the most heart-felt addresses on leadership, embracing uncertainty, and integrity that I have ever had the pleasure to experience. In our debrief that night with my colleagues from Coreworx, both Ray Simonson and I fixated on Bud’s inspirational closing statement that we need not: “strive to be the best in the world, but to do the best for the world.” His statement was so moving that we will be revisiting our own vision statement.The impact of strong industry leaders really comes into light when you consider someone like Bud Ahearn, recipient of this year’s CII Carol H. Dunn Award of Excellence. Bud retired from active military service in 1992 after having attained the rank of major general. He then went into private industry and joined CH2M HILL. Over his 18 years with CH2M HILL, Bud held responsibilities in strategic planning, governmental affairs, strategic communications and leadership development. He ultimately went on to be the company’s Vice Chairman of the Board. Bud is now “semi-retired”, but still serves with a number of engineering associations, and is actively involved in speaking at business and engineering schools around the USA on leadership development.

For the continuing success and growth in the construction industry, we need to embrace opportunities where the “Bud’s” of our community can join us, speak and inspire both young people and seasoned veterans with their passion for excellence in the industry.

Building Global Leadership and Engaging the next Generation’

The CII session on Building Global Leadership and Engaging the Next Generation shared some of the most interesting ideas presented during the two-day conference.

This session, hosted by the Next Generation Leaders Community of Practice, focused on advocating a progressive philosophy on the optimal balance of training, mentorship and hands-on experience for the next generation of construction industry professionals. Steve Siceluff, Director of the Summit Program at ConocoPhillips presented a compelling success story on their accelerated development program for high potential new engineering and construction management hires. Steve explained that they are leveraging this program to help bridge the industry’s generational gap, and focus on rapidly growing young leaders in their organization, and at the same time promoting effective knowledge transfer. Steve advocated a 70-20-10 model that balances hands-on experience, mentorship and training respectively, as a highly successful development model that has led to fully engaged next generation leaders at ConocoPhillips (with very high retention rates). Barry Christen, Director of Engineering and International Technical Resource Centers with URS, also shared his experience in adopting a similar development model, though in a more adhoc manner. He leveraged CII to provide his colleague, Lindsay Auble, with a development opportunity. Volunteer opportunities within CII are allowing Barry to provide training, mentorship and hands-on experience for his young leaders.

Listening to the results of these two organizations served to reinforce the need for balancing hands-on experience with strong training and mentorship as part of our development plans for our own next generation leaders. CII presents so many opportunities to help our young leaders, both by leveraging the existing body of knowledge and best practices for training, and even more importantly, by supporting our young leaders to engage in research teams where they will meet, learn and work side by side with industry professionals. From firsthand experience, I will be the first to advocate that participating in a research team will provide your future leaders with a learning and mentorship opportunity that can rarely be matched within a single organization.

For CII member companies, I would highly encourage you to seek out opportunities for your next generation leaders by getting involved with the Next Generation Leaders Community of Practice, and strive to get these folks fully engaged at next year’s annual conference. If you’re not yet a member of CII, you can still take advantage of the construction best practices and vast implementation resources that are published each year and incorporate these in your training programs. Check it out – https://www.construction-institute.org.

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