Q: What do you do here at Sargent? What are your main responsibilities?
A: I’m the director of workforce advancement. My typical responsibilities include working with employees that show promise to move up and do more in this company, working with new hires like junior foremen, and just generally helping to train people looking to reach the next level in their careers.
Also, if we hire someone like a superintendent from outside the company, I work with them to help them learn the Sargent way of doing things. I try to ease their transition into the company. I also help run the Sargent Construction Academy, where we go into high schools and recruit students who don’t plan on post-secondary education. I give presentations, go to career fairs, meet with advisors and teachers, and just attract as many people as I can to come and help us do the things we love to do.
When they apply to Sargent Construction Academy, we’ll bring them into our corporate office in Stillwater, and they spend 4-6 weeks training. After that, they go out into the field, and I just kind of keep an eye on them and offer help as they need it.
I started working with Sargent back in 1981, and I’ve worked my way up from a laborer to a foreman to a superintendent to a general superintendent to an area manager. Then, Herb asked me to step into this role in 2015.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
A: Honestly, the biggest challenge I face is finding the people who truly want to do what we do. Lots of people don’t have the drive or the desire to succeed in a tough industry, which is why I spend so much of my time trying to track down the people that do.
Q: In general, our industry struggles to connect with the younger generation. Do you have any ideas for how we could do a better job of reaching them?
A: It’s tough. One thing we’ve done in the last couple of years is attending the New Hampshire Construction Career Days events. There are up to 2,000 students that attend each year. All the different trades are there. They have a bunch of equipment there out by the fairgrounds, including bulldozers, excavators, loaders, skid steers, welding stations, carpentry stations, arborists — everybody’s there. It’s really cool.
We have a booth there and we bring in an excavator and a small haul truck. We just let kids get in the seat and play around. This event attracts middle school as well as high school students, so it’s a great way to get in touch with those younger kids who maybe haven’t thought too much about their careers yet.
We also set up a technical school with a program called Construction Engineering Technology. We actually paid for the instructor for a few years just to help teach these kids what the construction industry is all about. I go into those kinds of programs and talk to the students, and I bring people with me who attended that school and now work for Sargent, to give the kids a feel for how their careers could look.
Herb basically gives me free rein to do whatever I think will help us recruit these young people, which I always appreciate. We now have guidance counselors contacting me to ask if I can come and speak to their students. They realize the value of this relationship, and I think the students do as well. It’s not impossible to reach this younger generation, but it does take an effort that not every company is going to put in.
Q: How do you like to spend your free time when you’re not at work?
A: I’m married and we don’t have any kids, but we do have two dogs and two cats. We love to hike, we love to fish, and we love to work out. My wife is a Registered Maine Guide, so we enjoy just about everything outdoors. We also have motorcycles, which can be a lot of fun.
We don’t venture too far outside of Maine and New Hampshire. We have so many beautiful places around here. That’s the thing about Maine. It doesn’t matter where you go, you can find something beautiful. One of my favorite drives is driving through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It’s just incredible.