We always thought we’d be dressed in blazers and heels for our first business trip — not steel-toed workboots and polos.
So when HCSS President and CEO Mike Rydin initially told us on about our potential trip to Ohio, we were, at first, shocked and speechless. Mike was sending us to Ohio with the HCSS marketing team to conduct video interviews of people who work in the construction industry about their jobs. We asked them questions like:
“Tell us about your educational background.”
“What do you love about construction?”
“How did you get started in the industry?”
“What does your job role entail?”
Their answers, along with videos and photos of Ohio landmarks and construction sites, will be turned into a video for that will help high school and college students learn about construction and get pumped to join the industry. Our goal is to help recruit young people to the industry and show them that the stereotype of “hardhat-wearing strong men sweating in the sun all day while hammering things and pouring concrete” isn’t an entirely accurate view of working in construction.
We flew to Columbus, Ohio, on a Sunday afternoon and started working around Cincinnati at 3 a.m. the following morning.
During that first day, we had to interview construction workers for John R. Jurgensen Company, Eaton Asphalt Paving Co., Inc, and Kelchner. We also met instructors, volunteers, and attendees of Rosie’s Girls, a summer program through the YWCA that introduces girls ages 11 to 13 to STEM-related careers and teaches basic skills in carpentry and other trades.
We toured Messer Construction Company’s new headquarters, currently under construction, visited the University of Cincinnati to interview a professor and more construction workers, stopped by the Great American Ballpark (home of the Cincinnati Reds), and did a little bit of sightseeing.
Looking back on it, it’s surreal that we fit two states (we went into Kentucky) and so many site visits into one day. We’re the type of interns that enjoy having important tasks to accomplish, so the busy schedule was perfect for us. As Josephine De La Baume put it, “you can really only enjoy life when you’re extremely busy.” Any idle seconds we spent in Ohio would equate to missed interviews, sites, pictures, experiences, and memories.
Jackie Alf, Executive Vice President of John R. Jurgensen Co., HCSS intern Jackie Rosenthal, HCSS Project Manager Karen Hall, and HCSS intern Leona Ellankil stand in front of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnat, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky.
During our second day, we met with employees at The Jurgensen Companies’ headquarters and also interviewed workers at a road construction site in Middletown, Ohio, before watching a blast at Melvin Stone Company’s limestone quarry in Wilmington. The purpose of the blast was to harvest some limestone rock from the quarry wall to use as aggregate in different construction jobs, and it was a real treat seeing that explosion.We also toured the quarry and saw the tracks on which the carts of limestone travel.
Jackie and Leona pose in front of the blast site at the limestone quarry in Wilmington, Ohio.
On the third day, we interviewed The Beaver Excavating Co. workers at the Harrison Hills High School construction site in Cadiz, Ohio. The site was a learning experience for both of us, as we learned about dynamic compaction, which features a crane dropping a weight to compact dirt on the ground so that the building on top of the ground won’t cave in once it’s built. We were even lucky enough to see the process in action at the job site. It was also interesting to see how proud the employees and students were of the site — a school at which they would soon teach and learn, respectively. Later in the day we shot some B-roll, or extra footage, at Piedmont Lake before interviewing tradesmen at Ohio CAT Construction Equipment in Columbus.
On our final day in Ohio, we interviewed employees at Kokosing Construction Company, Inc., in Westerville before returning home to Houston. The people we interviewed at Kokosing expressed stories about themselves or people they know who were able to move up in roles in the construction industry, like being promoted from laborer to estimator.
We came back from Ohio with such a deep appreciation and excitement for construction. We met more than 50 people in the industry and had experiences we never even imagined. The state of Ohio and its construction companies treated us well, and we hope we can give back to them with successful videos.
I was honored to be invited to Ohio on behalf on I Build America. It was one of the most eye-opening events I’ve experienced. One of the trip’s highlights was getting to know the stories and passions of so many people, all of whom I would have never even met if it wasn’t for this opportunity.
I was even somewhat envious of the young construction workers I met: many of them were around 20 years old, with a house, a wife or husband, kids, cars, fun vacations, tradeskills, no college debt, and jobs they thoroughly enjoyed. You can bet that I’ll be doing my part to let my friends in high school and college know what a great career choice the construction industry is. In fact, I’ve already begun doing so.
I think it’s time we realize the trades and construction are just as important, if not more so, than other industries that require college degrees. Without roads, how would an ambulance get from an emergency scene to the hospital? Without buildings, where would businessmen be officed? The construction industry should no longer be overlooked by so many young people.
The trip also helped me realize four things I want in my own career: a job that includes travel, a job that is well paying, a job that enables me to meet and get to know many interesting people on a personal level, and a job that stirs up a strong passion within me.
Jackie interviewing Jim Rocchi, Eastern Ohio Director of Outreach for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
Prior to this internship and trip, I always had this mindset that the construction industry revolved around hard hats and working outdoors. But in reality, there is so much more to it.
Going on this trip helped me to realize there are numerous jobs for people in this industry, including estimators, foremen, project managers, laborers, supervisors, and much more! The jobs can vary from working either outdoors or indoors, or both.
I was honored to have the ability to interview people in this industry for our ‘I Build America’ video, during which I was able to see each person’s passion for their job, and and I enjoyed every second of it.
Something interesting that I noticed on this trip was the number of women working in the construction industry. They were truly inspiring, and each one of them showed how much confidence, power, and knowledge they bring to the table. On our visit to Rosie’s Girls, we met a woman who was pregnant with a baby due just two weeks later. Yet she still continued to work as a carpenter and to show the young girls how awesome her job is. This situation gave me a new perspective on life, that I or any women can do anything we set our minds to.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on this trip. It had a huge impact on how I view the construction industry. To all high school or college students looking for a career path to follow, look into the construction industry.
Leona listens to an interview at a John R. Jurgensen site and completing a checklist.