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Published: Fall, 2002; Vol 4, Num 1

 

Labor-Management Cooperation Goes to the Next Level:

STEP Trains Laborers to Supervise Construction

Laborers-AGC Program Coordinator Al DeVita (facing) discusses the STEP curriculum with the LHSFNA Division Directors Kitty Conlan and Scott Schneider (Photo: Steve Clark).

"It's no secret that we've seen a growing shortage of construction workers over the last ten years," says Laborers-AGC Program Coordinator Al DeVita, "but trained, experienced supervisors have been even harder to find."

To address the supervisor shortage, DeVita and the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund (Laborers-AGC) developed a new program to train Laborers to assume these positions on construction sites in the U.S. and Canada. The Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) supported this effort by writing the curriculum for the safety and health portion of the program.

Construction Supervisor Skill Sets

  • Introduction to Construction Supervision
  • Safety and Health for Construction Supervisors
  • Introduction to Construction Contracts
  • Introduction to Project Estimating
  • Communication for Construction Supervisors
  • Problem Solving for Construction Supervisors
  • Record Keeping and Documentation for Construction Supervisors
  • Project Planning and Management for Construction Supervisors
  • Computer Skills for Construction Supervisors

Alternate description

LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan

Known as STEP, the Supervisor Training and Education Program began earlier this month with a train-the-trainer program in Pomfret, CT. Classes for Laborers will begin this winter.

Several contractors and 275 front-line supervisors from around the country provided analysis that produced a set of "Skill Standards for Construction Supervisors." Based on these standards, particular STEP courses were drafted by authors such as Brad Railing, an Ohio instructor with 27 years of field experience and 16 years as a supervisor, and Bob Pelker who started out as a Laborer 30 years ago and is now Vice-President for Operations with McGrath and Associates, a signatory contractor in the St. Louis area.

The courses, then, were tested and revised through pilot training at a number of Laborers-AGC training centers. Eventually, STEP is expected to have at least 1000 Laborers enrolled annually in some portion of the program. Another goal of the program is to improve the skills and practice of current supervisors.

"We felt trained Laborers would be particularly well-qualified to assume supervisory positions because our craft is the most diverse on the construction site," says Laborers-AGC Executive Director James "Mitch" Warren.

"For many decades," Warren recalls, "we worked against a stigma that branded laborers as 'unskilled' workers. This was never an accurate perception, but, over the last ten years, it's been widely discarded due to our training programs. We've elevated this work into a recognized skilled trade: the Construction Craft Laborer. At this point, all indications are that the industry is hiring supervisors based on training and qualifications, and our members will have as good a shot as anyone at these jobs."

STEP is thoroughly consistent with the joint labor-management marketing strategy aggressively pursued by the Laborer's International Union of North America (LIUNA) and its signatory employers. According to LIUNA General President Terence M. O'Sullivan, who has served for many years on the Laborers-AGC Board of Trustees and is its current Labor Co-Chair, "The chief goal of STEP is to get more Laborers into the supervisory job market and onto construction sites in leadership positions. This helps our members and our management allies."

[Steve Clark]