If you’re looking for a superintendent, your trade contractor may know a builder or remodeler who has excellent skills and is tired of running a business. That’s how Todd Slyman, vice president of Slyman Construction Co., in Huntsville, AL, found out about a great new hire. “I asked one of my trade contractors and he recommended a guy I’m about to bring on board,” says the builder.
Take Advantage of Training
Tony Zimbelman, owner and general manager of Zimbelman Construction, LLC, in Wichita, KS, has hired students from carpentry training programs in vocational schools. “Make sure you talk to the instructors to get the best students available,” the builder advises. “We usually have to train them to do what we want, but at least they have a basic knowledge of a construction site, tools, etc.” Zimbelman generally starts the students out with his framing contractor.
Home Builders Institute (HBI), NAHB’s workforce development division, offers training to students enrolled in the Department of Labor’s Job Corps program. To find skilled graduates in your area, visit the Job Corps page on HBI’s Web site. The “Hire a Job Corps Graduate” link connects to a map that’s searchable by state. You’ll find out which building trades graduates have trained in, and get contact information for local placement coordinators.
A $4.3 million grant will help increase the pool of skilled workers for the building trades through NAHB-affiliated programs. The money was awarded to HBI by Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao during the 2004 Fall Board of Directors Meeting in Columbus, OH.
The grant will fund the development of a series of building trade training curricula — from entry-level training, through apprenticeship to an associate in applied science degree. HBI will partner with the American Association of Community Colleges, local HBAs and educational institutions.
Seven years ago, the Utah Valley Home Builders Association, in cooperation with the area’s local technical school and two local school districts, brought in high-risk students — those who were bored with high school and considered dropping out — to help build homes, learn the trades and make money.
Today, the program, the Building Youth Institute (BYI), involves three school districts and is successful and self-funding. The homes meet or surpass quality standards — an expert journeyman is at every home site for quality control. And the student-built homes sell well.
“Parents have told us that the program has essentially saved their students’ lives,” says Brad Simons, vice president and associate broker at Cottage Homes in Draper, UT, who provided plans and assistance for BYI. The program also has beefed up the local labor pool.
If you’d like to start a similar program in your area, read the Project CRAFT fact sheet available from HBI.
Ask the Right Questions
To maintain the quality of the homes you build, you likewise need to hire quality people. You can — and should — pick your employees and trade contractors as carefully as you select building materials. Don’t think that you can’t be choosy given today’s job market
To help guide your hiring decisons and gauge how prospects will perform on the job, consider asking the following questions:
“This is one of my initial questions when I interview a possible new trade contractor,” says Stormont. “Chances are I’ll know a couple of those builders. I’ll call them and check the guy out regarding quality, dependability, integrity, etc. I put a lot of weight on what my fellow builder has to say.”
- Please describe the worst situation you ever had to fix on a job site. How did you rectify the problem?
- What was the first/last job you worked on? What did you learn from this experience?
- Tell me about an ideal job you worked on.
- Tell me about your average project. How long does it take? Who did you report to?
Ask this question as part of your reference check:
“If the reference says ‘yes,’ you might have a decent employee or trade contractor on your hands,” Zimbelman says. “If they say ‘no,’ they will usually follow up with several reasons why.”
Hiring and Training Resources
"Job Descriptions for the Home Building Industry, Third Edition," available through BuilderBooks.com, features 40 job descriptions for the home building industry and will serve as a valuable resource to help you find the right person for the right job. The publication also includes detailed lists of legal questions, items that are illegal to ask job candidates about and electronic job descriptions and forms on CD to download and customize for your business. To view or purchase this publicaition online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 to order.
The Residential Construction Academy (RCA) is a Home Builders Institute (HBI) initiative established in 2001 to develop residential construction superintendents. Students take classes at local HBAs and receive a Residential Construction Superintendent (RCS) designation after mastering the following core competencies:
- General Project Management
- Planning and Scheduling
- Budget Management and Cost Control
- Customer Service & Home Owner Relations
- Safety and Security
- Codes and Quality Control
- Hiring, Training and Supervision
- Office and Subcontractor Relations
For a course schedule and other details, visit the RCS Web site. For more information, e-mail Joseph Krinock, HBI program specialist, or call him at 800-795-7955 x8928.
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