One of our summer interns made a comment that he ‘hadn’t thought about how IT fits into a company like Perlo, but there’s a huge need in this industry’. He’s right, and it inspired us to share the breadth of careers available in construction from office and management roles to trade positions in the field.
This blog is the first in a two-part series about careers in construction, where we will explore the many ways individuals can make a living in this industry. Today we will focus on office and management positions, and our follow up post will dive into the wide world of trade positions.
A Competitive Industry
The construction industry can be a path to valuable career opportunities with excellent pay, and for people with a wide variety of skills. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in construction trades will increase by about 4% from 2019 – 2029. As of May 2019, the median annual wage for construction occupations was nearly $7600/year higher than all other industries. In addition, the Construction Manager job outlook is expected to grow by 8%, which is much faster than average, with 2019 median pay of more than $95,000 per year.
IT & Technology
As technology continues to increase in construction, so does the need for highly skilled IT professionals. The need varies from company to company and can include managing IT infrastructure, securing information, technical support for employees, or utilization of advanced computer systems for modeling projects, tracking cost information, and distributing documentation.
Roles on the IT side of construction vary in terms of degree requirements and salaries, but it is clear that the need for IT professionals is growing rapidly due to the bustling industry. Computer support specialists make up one of the positions predicted to increase at a faster pace than many other jobs.
Rebecca Cook, Perlo’s IT Manager and employee for 16 years, say’s “technology is not just a tool. It is essential to our daily lives. In construction it keeps us connected to our co-workers and clients, it keeps us on time and on schedule and improving productivity so that we can continue to be competitive in the marketplace. As an IT professional, you have to be open to learning new things. The more you know how everything works together, the better you will be at helping to solve problems.”
The roles in accounting include a variety of positions, such as payroll managers, accounts payable and receivable specialists, subcontractor accounts payable specialist and controller. Accounting positions are competitive and may require a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree related to financing and accounting.
Jacki Williams, Perlo’s Payroll Manager, has been with the company for over 21 years. When she started in accounting for a prior company in 1983, her work was all manual, with no computers. “Now everything is electronic – which is way more efficient – but I feel that prior experience gave me a good foundation and an appreciation for what we have at our disposal now.”
The most rewarding part of Jacki’s job? She says it’s, “knowing that we all are an important part of what makes Perlo successful. Bringing your ‘A” game to work every day is crucial, and the willingness to adapt to whatever gets thrown at you.”
At Perlo, we value our guests and employees and make them top priority from start to finish—it’s the Perlo Way. It starts at the front desk with our two friendly and upbeat receptionists, as well as with our office coordinator that makes sure our office and facilities run smoothly.
Many construction firms will employ receptionists, administrative assistants or an office coordinator. These roles are generally entry level and do not require a college degree or highly technical skills, but do require top-notch customer service skills, multi-tasking ability, organizational skills and typing. These administrative positions are usually full time with steady hours.
Kelsey Kirkpatrick, current Perlo Office Coordinator, says that “I love that although I don’t have a background in construction, I was able to find where I fit here at Perlo. Flexibility, problem solving, and creativity are mandatory in my role. Helping to build and maintain our culture and employee relationships is one my favorite parts of my job.”
Marketing and Business Development
Marketing and business development positions are critical for growth and maintaining volume. Positions range from graphic designers, copywriters, digital specialists and event coordinators to department managers and executive level positions.
Business development, while separate from marketing, works hand-in-hand to drive business to the company. If marketing is the ‘wide net’ that is cast to provide brand recognition for a company, business development specializes in pursuing specific leads and bringing projects in the door.
There are a variety of positions possible within the marketing and business development realm, with a wide range of skills required and salaries.
Jennifer Cornilles, Perlo’s Marketing Manager, has a B.S. in Communications and says her work is “ever evolving. New markets pop up, new ways of promoting your company. Also, networking has become huge. That’s something I love about it. There are a lot of elements of construction I’m still learning. Having never built a project, or been involved in the complete process, it takes a little longer to understand it all. It’s a challenge, but a good challenge!”
Construction companies employ many people, making human resources (HR) professionals a necessary position. Depending on the size of the company, some opt to outsource this function to third party consulting groups.
Work in human resources consists of creating, implementing and managing company policies and procedures, training and performance management, recruitment and retention, interviewing, hiring and onboarding, personnel investigations and internal and culture events. A large part of the job is staying up to date and educated on best practices and keeping the organization compliant with all local, state and federal employment regulations. Bachelor’s degrees are required for roles in Human Resources, along with several years of experience in entry level positions.
Perlo’s HR Manager, Meghan Looney, has been in the role for nearly two years and helps to support over 400 Perlo employees at any given time pending the cycles of our projects. “What I love most about my job is that I am an equal resource, both for Perlo as a company and for our amazing employees. Everyday, I can feel the difference I make, which is so motivating in a career.”
Those in risk management departments help evaluate and reduce risk to companies. Responsibilities include contract review, policy development and enforcement and compliance tasks. In addition, they are often involved in the event of a crisis related to the company, such as a natural disaster, accident onsite or legal issues. To qualify for risk management positions, a bachelor’s degree is required at a minimum, often with an MBA or Juris Doctorate degree.
Kimberly Wood is Perlo’s Director of Corporate Risk Management and has been with the company for 6 years. She understands the risks involved with construction especially with her previous experience working for a concrete subcontractor. Of her job, she says, “I have such variety in my daily tasks! There is always someone who is looking for guidance or an extra pair of eyes on something. One would have to work hard to be bored working in Risk Management!”
Construction is inherently full of risks, but not all companies recognize just how risky it can be. As Kimberly says, “Risk Management is a unique role that not all construction companies’ value. It’s a role that doesn’t make the company money, so it is often overlooked. The sign of a great company is whether or not they have invested in a Risk Management Department. The biggest challenge is helping others see and understand the risks we see. It is immensely rewarding when you see the light go on in someone’s eyes.”
Construction estimators typically have a Bachelor’s Degree in a field related to engineering, with extensive knowledge of the technical side of buildings. Estimators can also work for general contractors or subcontractors and often specialize in specific building trades.
Chris McLaughlin, Vice President of Preconstruction Services, is a veteran of Perlo and has previously been a project manager, estimator and chief estimator. Of his experience, he says, “One of the things I find most rewarding is to be able to see the inner workings of many different types of businesses. From beer distribution, bakeries, auto dealerships and service shops, to wineries – we get to see how these businesses operate and to meet a wide variety of owners.”
Aside from the trades, the role of construction project manager (PM) may be the most familiar to people outside the industry. Project managers typically have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, construction engineering management or a related field. Some positions are entry level, while other companies may require time as a project engineer before moving into a PM role.
Project managers job growth is expected to increase over the next decade. These positions may be employed by general contractors, subcontractors, construction management firms, and design firms.
Randy Cooper, Senior Project Manager with 39 years in the industry, says that the rewarding part of construction is “having completed a project and having my name associated with being a part of the team that delivered it”. He’s also quick to tell you that “it’s the people. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with a number of really good companies with great people and have made a ton of good friends along the way”.
Though project management is rewarding, these positions do come with challenges. Randy says, “project management is a grind and often feels a bit like you’re working in a pressure cooker. Everybody wants everything now. At the end of each day, the work is never done. The industry is always changing, so we need to adapt, stay flexible and open minded to be successful.”
Construction project engineers (PE’s) are entry level project management positions, often filled by individuals who with aspirations to become project managers. Project engineers complete a variety of administrative and coordination activities, managing submittals, RFI’s and logs. Frequently, PE’s perform their job duties from the site trailers, working closely with the site superintendent and their project manager. A bachelor’s degree is generally required.
Matt Miller, current Perlo Project Engineer, says that being punctual and concise with directions/information is the most critical skill for PE to master. The most rewarding aspect of his job? “Being able to directly see a tangible result from your work”. And as for advice to those wanting to pursue this line of work? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can’t be an expert in all of it”.
Assistant Project Management
The role of an assistant project manager varies from company to company, but typically involves organizing and distributing documentation to team members on projects. Items may include drawings, schedules, RFI’s, submittals, and contractual documents. Individuals pursuing these roles should be competent with computer skills, have a good grasp of the English language, and be punctual, efficient and organized.
At Perlo, a college degree is not required. Previous experience in construction is also not required. This field tends to follow other administrative assistant roles in terms of skills required and pay.
Perlo’s Lead Assistant Project Manager, Crystal Bentley, says that her position requires “having a heart and love for the work and value for the team atmosphere. Put your head down, work hard, and just give your best everyday”. She also remarks that her role often contributes to streamlining processes and tasks. “Often times I can make a process simpler or interpret what someone is trying to say and then bridge the gap for how to complete a task’.
Construction companies have a lot of moving parts that require a variety of technical and creative positions from administrative, to marketing, business development, estimating, project management, and human resources. Other jobs include warehouse managers, delivery drivers or purchasing agents, benefits specialists, insurance specialists, contracts administrators, training managers or any number of other specialized fields.
The opportunities in construction are endless and a great fit for competent, hardworking individuals. Those with a desire to learn new things, who are self-starters that continue look for ways to make their jobs more efficient and effective, and that want to be team players will not only be sought after employees, but valued and able to advance their careers over time.
We encourage you to consider working in the rapidly growing construction industry and to check out Perlo’s employment opportunities here. Check back regularly for open positions!