Close up of McGraw Tower

Welliver crew members have a perfect view of Cornell Campus as they work to restore McGraw Tower.

Building Communities for More than 125 Years

By Anne Welliver-Hartsing

When I was on the verge of taking over my family business, I received some professional advice. As the incoming President I should make a couple big moves or changes to display my leadership as well as to make sure everyone knew I meant business. While I understood the strategy behind these thoughts, I knew that the one thing I didn’t want to mess with at Welliver was our culture. We have not been around for five generations and 125 years because we made drastic changes. We have persevered because my forefathers chose to live by several key principals, and I live by these same principals in my tenure as President. Work hard, take care of your people, always do the right thing, give more than you receive, and always hire people smarter than you. 

With every new generation of leadership comes change. There are new ideas, better efficiencies, faster technology … and yes, we most certainly pay attention and keep up with the times. These tools help us do our work, but the people ARE our company. 

For 125 years we have hired the best in the business. They work hard each day and often go above and beyond for our customers. They are problem solvers. They are experts at their craft. Most importantly, they are people that care about doing their job well and solving problems for our customers. They do the right thing. 

We are a Company of people that live, work, and play in the facilities we have had the opportunity to construct. We are often the end-users of the schools, higher education facilities, healthcare facilities, museums, arenas, sporting venues, and childcare centers that we have built. As a child I would ride around with my father as he proudly pointed out the work of his own hands and I’m sure that he, too, did the same with his father. Every employee at Welliver feels that same pride in being able to take credit for the structures we build. 

125 years doesn’t happen by chance, it happens on purpose. If you have a strong foundation, you can build anything on top of it. 

Representing the fifth generation of Wellivers, Anne began her career with the company in the accounting department before becoming a Partner in 2008 and promoted to Vice President in 2010. During that time, she was responsible for maintaining the financial health and growth of the organization. Named President in 2017, Anne is instrumental in implementing the company’s strategic plan and leading the company forward. She has significant experience in finance and operations as well as a deep knowledge of the construction industry. Her focus is to drive profitable growth and achieve operations excellence, all while maintaining the company’s character and identity. One of the reasons Welliver has excelled over the years is the culture and values as a company. Anne continues to champion these workplace qualities where the people drive its success.

Bad Budget Year? Moving Forward with Facilities Planning is a Must.

By Michael Ginalski

In March, hundreds of NYS School Superintendents will gather in Albany for their annual winter conference. The front and center issue above everything else for Superintendents this March is the Governor’s 2025 budget and the elimination of the hold harmless law which dictates that districts will not receive less Foundation Aid than the previous year. Many districts in NYS are receiving less aid than in the year prior which is creating historic budget challenges in many of these districts. In addition, most if not all of these districts are in various stages of facilities planning which creates questions relative to how to proceed IF your 24-25 school budget is difficult or controversial. Based on my experience, I would beg and plead with Superintendents to continue to plan regardless of where their 24-25 budgets land.

In 2010, I was the Superintendent of a district that was very conservative in terms of facilities planning because of their repeated annual budget quandaries for 20+ years. Any facilities work in this district was minimal at best during this time because of the fear of major planning during a bad school budget era. When I became Superintendent, not only was I faced with a $400M plus Building Condition Survey (BCS) but a $10.7M budget deficit because of the federal recession and 13 buildings that needed a lot of work. We ultimately worked through our annual budget difficulties and solved our facilities issues. During that time, had we stopped or been thwarted by the politics of our annual budget, that $400M BCS could have become a $600M BCS in the blink of an eye. In looking back at that work, having our facilities team, Construction Manager (CM), and A/E firm from the start made all the difference and we managed the politics together.

Below are some considerations for districts to proceed with planning during a difficult budget year.

Hire a Full-Service CM and Architect at the Start of Pre-Ref Planning.

At Welliver, we are well versed in working at the front end of projects to ensure SD planning not only reflects the customer’s vision but also ensures that cost estimates are in line with the project scope. Some districts don’t hire a CM until the project is developed. This is a mistake.

Stick to the BCS – Identify Priorities.

The BCS generally reflects basic infrastructure needs and the cost of those items. Within that, there needs to be constant dynamic conversation at the table amongst district personnel, architect, and CM. Welliver personnel work with the architect to assess key priorities. High priorities should be the focus.

Be Mindful of Politics and the Intersection of School Budget Decisions with Facilities Planning.

If your district has a contentious budget vote or significant cuts in the teaching ranks this is probably not the time to build that shiny new high school gym facility. Basic infrastructure type improvements or specific educational improvements can generally be understood by the public. However, in a bad budget “time” focus on needs … and limit wants.

Hire a Full-Service CM.

A full-service CM takes responsibility for all of the planning and day to day operations of a construction site. This includes early budgeting, conceptual scheduling, and existing facilities analysis. A full-service CM helps your project stay on schedule, makes it more affordable, and allows for greater quality control. Welliver is a full-service CM. Having us on board from start to finish can save districts money because of the work alongside the architect.

Utilize your CM’s Estimating Department during SD.

There’s the adage about “over promising and under delivering.” At Welliver, we urge our clients to utilize our estimating department during project design/pre-ref to ensure estimates are as tight and accurate as possible from the start. Our project managers are very adept at recognizing what parts of a project may need a second look prior to a facilities vote. The last thing a district needs is to promise various aspects of a plan to the public and following a vote they are forced to value engineer important elements out of a project. It’s a bad look and leads to a loss of confidence and trust.

Do Not Plan your Facilities Vote for May.

A contentious budget can lead to “no” votes for various reasons. Putting a facilities vote up at the same time as your budget vote is a recipe for failure as it provides those same people an avenue to vote no twice.

Managing the Electric Bus Mandate. 

Welliver personnel recently attended an event with local politicians to discuss the NYS mandate for all districts to move to electric vehicles. While this mandate is overwhelming districts in terms of its complexity, planning needs to begin now in terms of building the infrastructure in each district in order to support the move to electric vehicles. 2027 and 2035 will be here quickly and prepping for this in the current facilities planning cycle is a must, whether your 24-25 budget is challenging or not.

What a district doesn’t fix today will just compound. We’ve all heard of the example of the school roof which has been patched over and over, well past its expected warranty date. Before long, those patches no longer hold and the water gets inside and walls, ceilings, floors, and equipment become damaged. That cost to replace the roof becomes a much more expensive project as a result. While the politics of a bad budget year can be managed, the costs of what you choose to not fix today cannot and the district is doing its community no favors in the long run. Proper upfront planning and project development is a must. At Welliver, we have the expertise and experience to help a district navigate those challenges and find success.

Mike joined Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].

Technology – Just Another Tool in the Gang Box

By Daniel White

Today’s construction industry is rapidly moving into the technological age. Twenty-five years ago, it was unheard of to have a computer on the jobsite. At that time the cell phone and fax machine were just making its way onto projects leaving the two-way radios on the charging stations and eliminating trips to the post office to get your weekly paperwork turned in.

Fast forward to today. As projects move along at lightning speed, it is essential that technology is used on the jobsite to maintain constant and real time communication with the main office along with the design teams. Believe me this is no easy task. Try and ask builders to throw away the light table to overlay drawings, paper blueprints, hard copy specification books, two-way radios, file cabinets and not to mention the countless project tools that are piling up in tradesmen’s garages. A true definition of resistance from most of our seasoned builders.

We are now putting smart phones or tablets in every project superintendent’s hand allowing up to the minute documentation and communication. These devices can carry around a set of contract documents, record daily activity, take photographs, find product data, calculate quantities and much more. The challenge to these devices is getting them into the tool belt. My generation of builders prefers to hang onto field journals and delegate the technological tasks to the younger staff. Thankfully Welliver recognizes that by training and proper support, we can achieve this transformation into the twenty-first century.

Devices and programs are becoming more user friendly every day, exposing the ease of accomplishing our daily, weekly, and monthly routines. A daily report can be generated in minutes along with photos and the days weather attached, without spending countless hours in the job trailer after all the crews have gone home for the day. Drawings and details can be accessed at any location on the project rather than finding where the foreman left the field set of drawings. And who really has a specification book on site anyway? Well, we do today!

Documentation plays a key role in project safety also. Identifying hazards, documenting them, transmitting them, and correcting them all in a matter of minutes rather than days can save lives and injury. These tools can communicate instantly. Looking up MSDS sheets in seconds rather than walking to the office and looking through countless binders only to find out the product data you are looking for was never placed in the contractor’s safety plan. Communicating with a photo can also save precious time when it comes to maintaining a safe work environment.

Accurate construction documents can be maintained through project management software and into the field instantly, an essential factor saving time, resources, and money. There is a fairly new form of coordination making its way onto the jobsite and off the designer’s plan table – Building Information Modeling (BIM). This technology can identify challenges and clashes way before putting a shovel into the ground. It also helps visualize the end product so the client can make decisions quickly to keep the project moving forward. This too is just a click away on site.

I know we never have enough time or resources in today’s construction environment to accomplish what feels like impossible deadlines but take it from a builder that’s now into my fourth decade, technology is filling in those gaps. Click on my fellow builders!

Leveraging long-term professional relationships with his clients, Dan brings significant experience and expertise in construction, scheduling, field engineering, commissioning, and management leadership. Dan’s expertise truly lies in transitioning a project from concept to construction and is considered the “go to” person when it comes to strict schedule, budget, and quality management. He is well versed in the rigorous process that complex projects require at all phases of construction. Dan can be reached at [email protected].

Lack of Trade Workers is the Greatest Threat to K-12 Projects in the Future. How can School Districts and CM’s Help?

By Michael Ginalski

With the new Buffalo Bills stadium being built in Orchard Park as well as other large scale infrastructure projects across New York State, a hot topic being discussed by both owners and construction companies is the challenge of staffing up construction projects. A rural school district recently conducted interviews of construction management (CM) firms to explore potential concerns relative to staffing skilled workers on K-12 capital projects. Welliver was invited to participate in these interviews.

It was a great topic which created a great deal of thought. From there, the conversation centered on the amount of opportunity in the market currently and the challenges associated with having an aging workforce in the construction realm. This led to further discussion about how we can all work smarter with school districts to better educate students on the opportunities that exist in the industry. Looking at the numbers, it will take that level of effort to attract young people into the industry.

How many of us have heard from contractors that “I don’t have the people” when asking about approaching deadlines and the need to add an additional shift or add people to a job as the completion date nears. The answer is frequently and more so in recent years than decades prior. In the CM world, time is money and labor shortages can lead to higher costs and scheduling overruns. It can also mean additional safety concerns as a result of fewer “hands” available for complicated work. For owners this could result in long-term issues such as errors, liability exposure, and higher maintenance and repair costs.

According to Axios, older workers in the skilled trades are retiring and the supply is not measuring up to the demand. For example, the application rate for technical jobs like plumber and electrician dropped by 49% between 2020-2022 (NPR) and in this year alone, the construction industry in general will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers to meet the demand for labor. It is currently estimated that 1 out of 4 skilled trade workers are older than 55 so we are at a crisis point.

So, how can Welliver work together with school districts to make these careers more attractive? First, there is no tried-and-true way but leveraging relationships is key. Some strategies include:

  • Assign a Liaison to work with secondary Guidance Counselors to make them aware of trends in the industry and opportunities which exist. It is my experience that schools don’t always have the most recent information regarding opportunities in the field. Establishing an active partnership is a way to alleviate this.
  • Partner with schools to allow young people to get their hands dirty by experiencing skilled trade careers first-hand while in high school.
  • Provide scholarships for high school students interested in the skilled trades to further their education.
  • Work with schools to create/support recognition events for students who attend a BOCES program in the trades as districts do for high performing students, athletes, etc. This type of promotion will help begin to change the stigma that working with your hands means that you have less of a brain.
  • Work with districts to create “Trade Days” similar to Manufacturing Day in schools. Exposure plays such a huge role and according to Stanley’s Black and Decker Makers Index only 4 in 10 young people have ever connected directly with someone in a skilled trade about opportunities in their field. More so, 37% have never talked to anyone about the possibility of entering a skilled trade career.
  • Develop on going, intentional relationships with BOCES and community colleges including leadership and staff.

There is a cascading affect also for CMs to keep in mind — the plumber, electrician, or carpenter you can’t hire today means that there is less of a pool for Project Managers, Assistant Project Managers, Superintendents, and Project Executives. The ramifications of this trend are major. At Welliver, we welcome the opportunity to engage with districts to develop plans to increase the numbers of students who enter into these fields. Time is money and less workers frankly means increased costs and delays. This is a problem which will not go away on its own and the urgency is real.

Mike joined Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].

Building Relationships is Key to Customer Service in Construction

By April Brisbois

Have you ever thought about starting a career, learning a new trade, creating the dream job meant just for you? Have you ever had the great career, the dream job, the comfortably-reliably learned trade and been forced to reassess those ideals? This is what happened to me and how I ended up working in construction with Welliver. I created a career for myself in the customer service industry as a travel consultant, working with corporate travelers, leisure travelers, “the money is no object” traveler, and the “which hotel has the most for my buck” traveler. It was all about customer service and the rapport I created with my clients offering confidence and commitment, showing them they were my priority. I worked hard to establish myself as a top consultant who would work to create the adventure, get you to your next meeting, or should circumstances not go as expected, you knew who to call for assistance. Then as you know on March 15, 2020 the world shut down and took us all with it. The COVID pandemic rocked the travel industry to its very core. People were no longer looking for adventure. They weren’t worried about their next meeting or which beach had the best shells. They were worried about surviving. This is how I came to reassess what I thought was a lifetime career choice.

When you are forced to stay the course or try something new you always have to weigh the pros and cons. (Vision boards are real, people!) What did I want in life? What did I have to offer? How can I put my skills to use if I decided I wanted to expand my own career options? I decided to expand, to take control of the situation I found myself in because of the pandemic and try something different. No matter what new system you need to learn or new program is required the basis is the same — build a customer service platform with your consultants, clients, owners, and now in my new role, subcontractors; and showcase yourself as a reliable, accountable asset to your team and business associates.

I have been with Welliver for two years as a project coordinator and very happy I made this career change. With Welliver, the wheels of production are always spinning and changing. The core is the same with each new job and project but the travel from point A to B can be a winding road. As each project is different and requires different skill sets, each project manager (PM) is different as well with their own unique way of traversing the winding road from start to finish. My job is to help navigate, offer assistance, and adapt to each PM as needed. Customer service in the construction industry often requires a quick response and clear communication between myself and the project designated team. To be an asset on a team with multi-functioning roles, it’s so important to realize that customer needs vary and to be adaptive to that.

Working in a customer service capacity at Welliver to me means building relationships with the Welliver team, architects, subcontractors, owners, and all involved under each of these umbrellas. We need to give/receive respect from each tier of the project in order to manage a successful build. When you build respect with each other you open a communication path that allows ideas and opportunities to grow on all sides. Giving and receiving feedback is done in a constructive way instead of delivered as criticism and combative. The relationships built with the key parties involved in the project help eliminate risks such as unrealistic deadlines, unnecessary/or necessary scope changes, unforeseen issues found during the build, resource issues, etc.

As a customer-oriented company, Welliver has built and continues to build rapport with the community, companies, and project owners for repeat business and business referrals. They have created a team that works to build inclusiveness with subcontractors throughout the region, working with the trades and being impartial. Allowing equal opportunities on each build makes Welliver strong in the customer service industry. Communication between all parties allows us to commit and achieve the customer’s goals and expectations, creating brand loyalty between our clients and Welliver.

In closing, customer service is a viable living entity in this industry. It leads to either the growth and loyalty of a business or the demise due to lack of integrity, respect, and communication. Welliver is celebrating 125 years in the industry during 2023, proof of “Confidence Built on Performance.”

An outgoing and creative thinker, April has worked as a customer service professional for more than 20 years. During this time, she has become a subject matter expert in communication, client outreach, trouble shooting, and negotiating around challenging situations. April is keenly familiar with working with people on a day-to-day basis in ever-changing environments. As project coordinator for Welliver, her philosophy is to build a customer service platform with owners, architects, and subcontractors; and perform as a reliable, accountable asset to the team and business associates. April can be reached at [email protected].

Qualified, Skilled Construction Professionals are in Demand

By Jeff Makela

As we ease out of the COVID pandemic, the construction industry is experiencing a deficit of workers and this trend is posing a serious challenge for construction companies. People working in the trades are asking the million dollar question, “where did everyone go?” Speculation includes a wave of retirements, career changes, COVID-19 death and illness, and even building tiny homes on wheels and heading out to the west coast are rumored to be contributing factors. According to a model developed by the Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry will need to attract nearly 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022 to meet the demand for labor. It is mind boggling.

The labor shortage is not unique to the construction industry. Organizations across all market sectors are experiencing similar challenges – where to find qualified skilled people. In addition, many companies are experiencing employee turnover, which is at an all-time high.

Construction has always had a reputation for being a tough, physical career. No doubt about it, construction is hard work and many jobs are physically demanding. Finding key people to manage projects and put the work in place has become a focused issue. Construction work is not highly sought out as a career choice as it once was. Young adults are more apt to select higher education than a job in the trades. A recent survey from the Associated General Contractors of America found nearly nine out of 10 contracting companies were unable to find skilled workers to complete projects. All of this is creating a snowball effect – projects are now being more scrutinized and handpicked in order to meet the demands of the organization’s labor resources. This in turn drives up the cost of construction or limits projects and in the end, everyone is paying the price.

After nearly 40 years of personally working in construction and “seeing it all,” I recognize a challenge we are facing as an industry is the caliber of workers filling construction positions. Proficiency and straight out interest by young people in construction is on the decline. In a 2022 online article by ProHome Resource Center, construction work is seen as unstable, and young people are not encouraged to enter the field. Despite there being many openings and rising salaries, young people are not entering the profession at a pace that is necessary to sustain the needs of the industry.

Based on my experience, it is my opinion that a high percentage of young people are no longer being raised in an environment that demands physical work and the dependency on modern technology leaves young people unprepared for the aspect of hard labor. An online article from Prudential ( states that 58% of young adults to the age of 30 are still living with their parents. Are people waiting for “opportunity to come knocking?” This mindset could be causing an adverse effect on the way we do work within the industry. The foundation of every successful construction project is heavily reliant on a well-grounded, consistent workforce.

Welliver knows it’s not business as usual. We recognize the challenges and understand the need to work within the parameters we have. Challenge accepted. Welliver is figuring it out, implementing innovative ways to recruit and retain our people, and grow as a company in an ever evolving industry.

So, what can we do to motivate people to build a career in construction? At Welliver, we are being proactive by sharing the knowledge and experience of our veteran workers and instilling that value in our current and future employees. We encourage our superintendents to shadow, mentor, and train our younger individuals on our projects, so they get true field knowledge. This is something that cannot be taught in a classroom. Our veteran employees share their stories and are key examples to our younger employees of how the work has paid off for them. We are checking the pulse more often and making it a point to engage with our field personnel daily to resolve situations before they become issues. Positive news: benefit packages offered by trade unions help to make the job more desirable. Pensions are being offered (which is rare in today’s job market) along with annuities and healthcare, all of which are included in union memberships.

The bottom line is we are not sacrificing our client’s project – rather rising to the challenge and coming up with creative ways to get the job done. At Welliver, we are committed to engaging with and educating our area students about the advantages of seeking out professions in the construction industry. We are thinking outside the box to attract the next generation of workers and evaluating how we can adapt to the current workforce. It is not business as usual anymore and to succeed and stay in business a company must adapt with the times.

Jeff is a results-oriented person driven by the thrill of beating a deadline at the highest level. Having learned the value of hard work at an early age, he applies lessons learned from previous experiences to motivate manpower; sustain strong project superintendent teams; deliver a customer-driven, organized, and efficient building process; and build career growth paths for workers, which is greatly needed in the construction industry. As General Superintendent for Welliver, Jeff is responsible for the overall status and facilitation of building the right project team, assigning the proper superintendent who is the right fit for the project, training, as well as managing the workforce on the project site. A lifelong construction professional, Jeff plays an integral role in building and strengthening client relationships, creating collaborative environments, and bringing construction workers and the trades into a new era of conducting business. Jeff can be reached at [email protected].

Considering a K-12 Facilities Referendum? Top 8 Reasons You Should Hire a CM Firm.

By Michael Ginalski

School districts in New York State are passing successful referendum packages at a rapid rate. With these project votes, communities are sending a message to districts that they trust them to be good stewards of their tax dollars while also trusting that they will maintain quality school facilities for their children. With this trust comes great responsibility. Districts must do everything possible in turn to stretch dollars and build what was presented to the public to continue to gain support for future referendums. Hiring a construction management (CM) firm is crucially important regardless of the size of the project. At Welliver, we got our start building schools and we have a storied history of doing it well. A school construction project has many moving parts regardless of how large or small it is and from experience, we know we make a difference for the districts and communities we serve. Our firm provides a full service, team oriented approach to districts.

Here are eight reasons why districts should hire a CM:

Allows School Administrators to focus on the core mission of educating children.

With a CM to lead the project, once a shovel hits the ground you won’t have to take time away from day-to-day responsibilities due to construction issues. At Welliver, we are the school district’s agent in the field managing all that comes with school construction. We work for the district – not the contractor or the architect.

Utilize contractors’ experience with schedule, constructability, and cost during design.

In traditional design-bid-build construction the contractor is handed plans to build as drawn. That approach has drawbacks as it limits opportunities to have contractors input from the start. Having a CM ensures that the opportunity exists as the builder is able to make recommendations about various aspects of the project to ensure project and budget goals can be met.

Allows districts to select project team based on qualifications.

This element is vitally important. Hiring the right people ensures a district is not gambling their community’s goodwill and limited resources. In school construction, the traditional approach of selecting the low bid from a general contractor comes with no promises that the low bidder will be the best builder. A CM allows districts to remove that risk and select project leadership based on qualifications. It also means gaining the builder’s pre-construction perspective on design, cost, and schedule.

Having a CM on board from pre-referendum to completion provides districts the best opportunity to meet project goals.

A CM being on board from concept to completion is a tremendous asset to a school district. A CM will see the finished design as more than a set of drawings. They will ultimately see those drawings as a description of the district’s overall goals and priorities and will gain an appreciation for certain elements from playing a role in the overall development of the facilities plan. In a traditional design-bid-build approach it can be easy to reduce budgets by cutting space or certain amenities and aesthetics. A CM has an appreciation and understanding from participating in pre-referendum planning to work to maintain certain elements that preserve overall goals and budget by finding other opportunities during pre-construction and construction to save dollars.

Collaboration between district, CM, and architect results in best value outcomes.

At Welliver, we strive to develop a quality professional relationship with the architect, the school district, and contractors. Often times in traditional school construction where a CM is not present the relationship between the architect and contractors can be adversarial. We feel that we have the responsibility to districts to work together as a team to produce the best value outcomes that will result in the lowest cost for construction and fastest schedule while producing a quality finished project.

Value Engineering maximizes budget.

Having a CM in the pre construction phase is critical for cost savings. The CM can recommend construction methods and materials that ultimately will reduce cost and improve quality. Quality value engineering can also lead to substantial time savings in the schedule.

Time is money – a CM gets it.

At Welliver, we take great pride in monitoring schedule and hitting design and construction deadlines. A good CM will keep the schedule on track and will work with contractors directly to ensure they are meeting milestones as agreed to in the contract.

A quality CM validates the solution for districts.

We bring an investigative approach to what a district is trying to accomplish and how best to deliver the solution. We are essentially turning the process into a form of a math equation and utilizing a team approach with the architect and district validating the solution with facts and numbers.

Welliver is poised and ready to assist with K-12 projects. One of our key tenets is “collaboration before a shovel hits the ground” and we pride ourselves on being a quality partner and teammate to school districts that we serve.

Mike joined Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].

Construction Industry is an Ideal Destination for Young Workers

By Ryan Bettis

In an article that appeared in the March 28, 2022 issue of McKinsey & Company’s “Bridging the labor mismatch in US construction”, U.S. based construction projects are short-staffed today, and the problem is set to get worse over the next ten years.

There is a critical need for available manpower to fill positions ranging from entry level laborer or skilled positions to experienced estimators, project managers, and superintendents. When I first entered the construction industry, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. When considering working in construction, the first thing that came to mind involved swinging a hammer. It is common to think about construction and immediately think of the labor aspect or the physical trades. However, I discovered there are greater opportunities available to build a rewarding career in construction with many benefits.

I originally started out working in the residential sector in a variety of different trades. This afforded me the time to get a good feel for what I thought would be the best fit for me while kick starting my career. One thing that I observed was the constant need for manpower and skilled labor on all jobs. The struggle to find this is real. This issue has only grown since my time in the residential industry and has similar impacts to what I see now on the commercial construction side.

One reason I believe this issue is so prevalent is the lack of young people entering the construction industry. It appears young professionals are unaware of or don’t understand the quantity and quality of work opportunities the construction industry has to offer as well as how rewarding many of these positions are. Ranging from CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) drivers to carpenters to project managers, the need to fill these positions on construction sites is at an all-time high. As communities continue to grow and develop, finding skilled labor will be a constant challenge. This can impact communities and potential clients on many levels. Mostly I see this lack of manpower contributing to the rising cost of construction as the less manpower you have to spread around to multiple jobs the more expensive it is to keep said manpower on one site.

Often it goes unnoticed just how much goes into a construction project ‘behind the scenes’ — supervisors, foremen, engineers, masons, painters, safety professionals, and administrative support — each person plays an integral role in the day-to-day work that needs to be done to keep projects running smoothly and to get them to completion.

Interestingly, I have found that companies are willing and eager to recruit young professionals ready and willing to be trained in entry level positions. Construction often isn’t thought of as an industry with a lot of entry level positions but due to the high rate of individuals retiring from this industry and the need for more and more manpower this could not be further from the truth. In my experience, fresh thinkers and ideas are always valuable to the construction industry. When seasoned veterans share their knowledge and experience it can help young professionals learn and build upon their strengths that will ultimately create a successful construction experience for the client as well as positively impact our communities. As the need grows, I believe we will continue to see just how important it is to fill the roles that were once held by individuals retiring as well as creating new roles that can be filled with creative, efficient minds that help contribute to a project’s success. I believe a huge incentive to have companies recruit and train individuals is they can build their workforce around the needs of that specific company and can help grow the company based on how they train and the quality of training provided to these new hires.

Whether you are fresh out of high school, a recent college graduate, or a seasoned member of the workforce there is and will continue to be a growing need for individuals to join the construction industry. Many opportunities are available to anyone willing to work. It is often thought that the best route to follow after high school is to go to a college or university and get a degree. In many fields this is an excellent option to pursue a career but in construction many of the opportunities do not require a degree and can be just as rewarding and fulfilling with quality training and hands on experience. Trade schools and programs offered through BOCES provide excellent opportunities for people to get their foot in the door.

Ryan was first introduced to the construction industry by working as a carpenter on various small projects for several construction companies in the Southern Tier. He gained valuable exposure to the different aspects of construction as well as working with project managers, superintendents, and the variety of trades required to complete projects. Ryan has always been drawn to the idea of revitalizing communities, making buildings useful again, and seeing the results of a built facility. Getting ‘behind the scenes’ of construction is his passion. Ryan laid the foundation of his career with smaller residential projects and worked his way up to multi-million dollar commercial/industrial projects. Today, Ryan is an Assistant Project Manager with Welliver. He can be reached at [email protected].  

The Construction Site Safety Tour

By Eric Hadlock 

Recently I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with a gentleman who had expressed an interest in a career change to construction safety. This man had spent significant time in another field very different from the construction industry. He stated that he was looking for a new challenge in his life and has always been fascinated watching construction projects progress from a distance and thought he would like to become part of the process. Bringing a strong belief in safety, his goal is to embrace a role in this field. I had been asked to spend time and explain the responsibilities of a safety manager and point out what to look for during a site visit. I also wanted to explain how a safety manager communicates and works with site leaders and personnel to facilitate a safe work site. Being new to my role at Welliver, I was excited to bring a fresh perspective to our discussion.

The man expressed that he was interested in learning what happened on a construction project on a daily basis and how something that looked so hectic from afar could be done safely. After initial introductions and a safety briefing that covered the potential hazards of our active construction site tour, I ensured he had the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — hard hat, safety glasses, high visibility vest, and proper footwear — all required on our construction sites. We spoke briefly about the scope of the project that we were about to walk through and headed out the door.

As we started to walk the site, he asked if I had always been involved in construction safety. Interestingly, I too made a change into construction safety after recently retiring from law enforcement. Although the two careers are very different, there are also many similarities between law enforcement and construction safety. Both are governed by a set of rules or regulations (laws and OSHA regulations), require an attention to detail after understanding the rules and a willingness to enforce those rules, require an ability to effectively communicate and most importantly, have the ultimate goal of keeping people safe. In construction that means both on the job site (the worker) and anyone adjacent to the job site (the public).

As we continued our walk through, I pointed out what to look for relative to risks, hazards, and unsafe conditions while pointing out the relevant OSHA regulations and the importance of following them. I emphasized that OSHA regulations are bigger than just “following the rules.” I have learned that many of the decisions that humans make regarding rules are governed by consequence avoidance, and in fact, are at the simplest level, a cost/benefit analysis. OSHA can certainly level severe financial consequences for not following their rules (cost), but the OSHA regulations are far bigger than that. The most obvious benefit of implementing programs to ensure OSHA compliance is a safe work site; a site free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious harm (the General Duty Clause). I explained that construction is an inherently dangerous profession, but the OSHA regulations helped mitigate the hazards. It has become very clear that adhering to OSHA regulations requires a great deal of organization and planning. Everyone must think through a task and anticipate the potential hazards. Many of the OSHA regulations help streamline that process by focusing on known hazards in almost all aspects of construction, and in many cases outline the equipment and training needed to maintain safety. Yes, there are a lot of numbers, measurements, tables, weights, heights, etc. to be aware of, but the result is a well thought out plan with a focus on worker safety.

Another benefit of a safe work site is a more productive work site. A safe and productive work site that incorporates effective communication and teamwork fosters increased morale. I don’t know a single enterprise involving more than one person that does not benefit from increased morale. Although that benefit is immeasurable, it is wildly apparent when morale is poor. All of this has financial benefits as well; on-time or ahead of time completion dates, lower injury (recordable/reportable) rates resulting in lower insurance costs, and most likely reduced overall construction costs. A safe and productive construction job site extends beyond your employees as subcontractors also see the benefits. Adhering to the OSHA regulations is important, but the benefits are far beyond just checking a box on a checklist.

As we made our way back to the job site trailer to conclude our tour, we discussed the balance between construction task completion and safety. In my mind, they are ultimately the same thing. There can be no division between construction and safety. Each and every task and subtask must be thought out, planned, and resourced while integrating safety. We do not do construction tasks discretely from safety – every construction task must be done safely in order to be done correctly. Our goal every day is to accomplish the tasks required to meet the goals of our customers (project owners), but just as important, to ensure all our workers walk off the project sites in at least as good a condition as they walked on. If we do that, we are all successful.

Back in the trailer, I knew he had fully grasped the message I was trying to convey when he summed up our tour. He said, “if I have understood you correctly, Construction Safety is the same thing as Construction Safely.” When I thought about it, he hit the nail on the head. 

Eric works hard to establish and promote a worksite where safety is at the forefront and successful project completion is the outcome. With every project he instills a common philosophy – we must take care of each other. As Welliver’s Project Safety Director, Eric continuously challenges himself to look for better and more efficient ways to improve the safety environment that will positively impact the lives of all on the project site. He creates an environment of personal accountability and plays an integral role in maintaining Welliver’s position as a leader in workplace safety. Eric can be reached at [email protected].