Webinar Replay: College vs Construction

Posted April 28th, 2022

Is college REALLY the only path to a stable income and rewarding career? Is construction REALLY a “dead-end” job?

Of course not. But many Americans believe them to be true.

It’s important for those of us in construction to change the narrative, raise awareness, and offer a new perspective for the industry.

This was a panel conversation featuring leaders from the skilled trades and higher education. We focused on the pros and cons of going to college or going into the trades, the myths versus the reality for both, and how the best solution for people might not be an “either/or” mentality, but a path that can encompass both.

Autumn Sullivan 01:40

So we have we have people joining, and we have a lot to talk about. So let’s go ahead and get started. Thank you, everyone for joining us today. With me, as always is my co host and the CEO of mobilization funding. Scott Cooper. Hi, Scott.

Scott Peper 01:56

Welcome. Thank you. Welcome, everybody.

Autumn Sullivan 02:00

And our guests today are we have a Selye Mubarak, who is an author and keynote speaker in the construction industry. We have Natasha Sherwood, who is the Executive Director for independent electric Electrical Contractors Association of is it West Florida or

Natasha Sherwood 02:16

Florida, Florida, west coast, but it’s it’s everywhere except for four counties.

Autumn Sullivan 02:22

And we have Matt Vetter, who is the president of Shaffer construction. Thank you all so much for being here with us.

Matt Vetter 02:28

Thank you. Thank you.

Saleh Mubarak 02:29

Thanks for having us.

Autumn Sullivan 02:31

Um, to kick it off, I would like to ask each of you to share your story on how you got into the construction industry. And also, I want to know whether or not you went to college? Where do we start?

Natasha Sherwood 02:45

I’ll start. Like, I’ll just run with it. My name is Natasha shoreway. How did I get into the construction industry and my dad was a construction attorney. So that’s probably how I first got into it as a as a kid. But then am I was actually a K through 12 principal. And we started addressing education needs and found out that in Hillsborough County, and in Florida, we were importing more in construction labor than we had. And we were actually paying for DMS and I got on a task force that ended up finding can transfer me to this job with anything electrical contractors. And so then really just got in depth with our apprentice program and kind of took on a life of its own. So now run the Florida apprenticeship Association, as well, which runs all kinds of construction, and all kinds of it apprenticeship. So that’s how I landed here. And yes, I went to college for seven football seasons, and received a lot of degrees in that timeframe. None of which Am I using?

Saleh Mubarak 03:46

Likewise, which I share a similar story to that. So why do you want to go next door? Sure.

Saleh Mubarak 03:53

Well, going to college was was not an option. My mom was a school principal, very tough on us. The The thing is, I have a one brother older than me and one sister also older than me, both medical doctors, and another sister who’s a pharmacist. So there was pressure on me to go to the medical field and I kind of you know, registered and then this is back in my home country in Syria that time. And then I changed now I don’t want to be dissecting frogs. And so I changed to civil engineering, which I liked. And in my graduate school here in the US, I did my master’s degree in structures and mechanics. So I had work experience in structural design. And then I found that it’s dry subject. You know, you’re going to sit in by yourself in a cubicle, doing design and I’m, I’m very talkative. I’m, like, you know, I’m a people’s person. So I find aren’t that project management is my cup of tea and I switched I did my PhD at Clemson University. So as they say, my blood runs orange. And I love it. And this is new news. Nobody knows except for my wife. I signed a contract two days ago with why my publisher Whitey, for my third book on construction project management. That’s awesome. Good for you. Thank you. So you guys are my references if I need help, Matt, Scott and Natasha. And, of course, you know, if I need a question and construction management, you are my references, please?

Matt Vetter 05:44

Absolutely, anytime. So, with that, I’m Matt better. I’m the president of Shaffer construction. We are a commercial general contracting firm in southeastern Michigan, I got my start in construction. In my my late high school days, I started on a residential crew, basically carrying wood around the job sites and kind of a general labor. Through that I’ve, I’ve worked in and touched almost every type of construction, I switched into the commercial realm. And right around 2008, when everything was kind of falling apart, I’ve owned several companies. And now, you know, Shaffer construction is where I’m where I’m at, it’s my, it’s my burn the ships project, and we aren’t looking backwards. So we’re rapidly growing and having lots of fun doing it. I did go to college, I graduated from U of M, University of Michigan. I have a weird story about my past, we can get into that maybe later. But my degree is in psychology. And I would say I actually use it probably every day. And when I do.

Saleh Mubarak 06:56

Math, what kind of construction do you do?

Matt Vetter 06:59

So we build everything other than single family homes. We do a lot of light industrial, commercial work. We built office space back when people still use them. You name it, we do it. Vertical construction, not not horizontal, right.

Scott Peper 07:17

For those of you that don’t know, I got my start construction working for my dad he had it was commercial Glaser contract, man, contract laser, doing glass and aluminum. So I wouldn’t be on those job sites in high school and summers, certainly all through college. And like Matt, I just basically did whatever I was told I carried wood, I peel the stickers off of the class. Back when I was doing insulated glass, they actually used to take two panes of glass and a hot rubber gun and insulated themselves. I know that doesn’t exist anymore. But I had plenty of burns from that. As well as peeling all the little stickers off the glass and carrying it to the polisher and who knows what else working even on the cutting table. And that definitely helped me understand that I wanted to get into the construction was fascinating. And I liked it. But I also went to college, mostly because I wanted to play basketball when I left high school and I needed somewhere to continue that dream of mine. But I ended up getting a degree in marketing and business and food, hotel Hospitality Management. And candidly, I probably don’t use much of what I learned there. I’m sure I learned some structure. I learned how to make some friends, I learned how to get in trouble. And fortunately, I made my way out. And so that’s where I land now.

Autumn Sullivan 08:30

Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a good segue into my next question, which is do you how do you use your, your college education? Now in your construction career? Like Matt, you were talking about that you got a psychology degree, but you feel like you kind of use that every day? So whoever wants to go first? Or if you don’t use it at all?

Natasha Sherwood 09:02

Matt, you’re gonna jump in with psychology? Yeah,

Matt Vetter 09:05

I can I can touch on that. So I, I do feel like I use it every day. You know, my role now is the owner and kind of the guy leading the ship. You know, I deal with everyone from the day laborers on job sites to C suite executives that we’re working for, and, you know, in in sales and marketing in general, learning the human psyche and how, how we all work, how we tick, you know, it’s proven to be very helpful. Now, I would be lying to you if I told you that when I was coming out of high school and going to school, going to college that that was my plan. Right? I mean, my my colleagues and my co workers that have degrees, they have construction management degrees or engineering degrees and you know, normal track education for what they do. So it’s part luck, I think and it’s part you know, the universe working for me but it is It started off really as a, as a field that interested me just on a personal level. And I’ve been able to kind of take that and spin it to help what I do now.

Natasha Sherwood 10:11

I would say I said, I didn’t use any of it, I have degrees in public relations, sports administration, mass communication, and political campaigning, I just thought I would like try to cover all the colleges at the University of Florida and see if I could get something from all of them. And I will be made, I would, again, be remiss to say I don’t use it, I do a lot of legislative and lobbying work, but I’m never running a campaign again in my life. And obviously, I’m sitting here on a webinar, so I use mass communication. But a lot of what I feel like I use from my experience in college is the things that I did outside of that I did while I was in college, but it truly was on the job training. So whether it was working in a legislators office, I work for the football team, and it is that structure it is that dealing with people it is the Getting Things Done. And I think that aspect is really transferred into being able to work well in the construction industry that we do, especially coming in from someone outside, when I came in the past few years is that anywhere I’ve gone, and I probably learned this again, working outside the classroom is learning all the aspects of it. So whether it’s the carrying the wood, or scraping the stickers off, you know, I was trying to learn. So I would go out to my contractors and try to figure out what they were doing. And I think working with people is the part that I probably learned the most of college if definitely wasn’t learning how to like, write the code to do a website back in 1992. Because none of that exists anymore. Right? So some of that coursework is not there. But I think it’s the part that I learned outside of the classroom in college that really transfers into what we’re doing now.

Saleh Mubarak 11:41

I have to interesting story about my using my background. You know, there’s there is a match now between my educational background and what I do, but what I did in the master’s degree was structured design. And I finished that in 1985. So it was a long time. In my work, brief work experience was in 8283 in instructional design. Now fast forward, maybe almost 30 years from now, If Natasha, you are in Tampa, right? Correct. Remember when we had the big hurricane? Was it Irma? Or was it thinking I was almost like 2006 ish timeframe? Like we had like,

oh, no, no, it was something was 2016 17. I don’t remember exactly. But it was a Michael, Michael. Michael. Yes, Michael. So it was funny that at that time I was with my mother who passed away later on. She lived with my brother and sister in Panama City, Florida. And my children, the you know, all the guys put they have an annual trip. They went outside the United States at that time and they left their wives and kids and we felt my wife and I sorry that the wives and we have one daughter and two daughters in law. They were without their their husbands. We have to go back to Tampa. So we drove back and we looked like crazy on the highway. Everyone was leaving Tampa when we were the only vehicle driving coming back to Tampa. A shock was when they decided that they wanted to go so they travel all of them all the you know, ladies with the children, they traveled to Atlanta, we have relatives in Atlanta and I told my wife, I’m not leaving Tampa. So I decided to with the limited means I had to board my glass doors and so on and I used my structural background, I told my wife, I said, failure happens because of deflections. And the deflections happened in the middle of the pain. You know, talking about glass, scotch. So I pulled some furniture, I got some two by fours I had and some boards. And I bought all my house and said I’m not leaving. And we got stuck on the TV waiting for the news. And then and we prepared and walk in closet to sleep in and then by 11 o’clock pm. I remember the good news that it’s not going to be as bad. Right?

Autumn Sullivan 14:25

Which is always one thing with hurricanes in the Tampa Bay. Well knock on wood so far that has been I think

Natasha Sherwood 14:33

it’s because there’s Jose Gasper is gold is buried in Tampa Bay and no hurricane get hit. According to my dad, I get structural engineering forget anything else. The whole thing is in causes gold is down there somehow helping us. Yeah, and I

Scott Peper 14:46

have heard that many times myself.


cavalier about it? Yeah.

Autumn Sullivan 14:52

I think you guys all touched on a really interesting point. And it’s one of the things I want to focus on in this webinar, too is is the whole fact that it’s Learning like college is a way to learn. And we’ve also talked about, you know, we all have probably, I guess, by our ages and slay you are nice enough to announce how long you’ve been Where you’ve been working. But it’s it’s your education over time. It’s not just one way one method and college can be that. But it doesn’t have to be that immediately after high school, I can tell you personally, I would have benefited much better learning in college, if I went in four or five years later, I can also tell you that I’ve learned more from the books that I’ve read than I ever did in college, cumulatively. And even even candidly, from even some of the experience of certain work experiences I’ve had, I probably learned more from books, I certainly today in my everyday life, implement, use, and actively apply the things I’ve learned from a book in my everyday life that I that I couldn’t even draw a line to, and anything I learned in a classroom or a study. Now, I’m not an accountant or a doctor or a civil engineer. So there’s some there’s some perspective to have there. But what I think is, it’s the maturity level of going from high school directly into a college and trying to indoctrinate yourself into what do you want to learn, and oftentimes, you go to college, you don’t even know what you want to major in yet. And I think you couple that with an expensive cost to it. And then you look at the practical nature, what happens when you get out life? economy, jobs, inflation, other things, and you realize quickly that that might not have been the best thing for me at the moment. Is there anything that you guys can touch on as to why you think there’s a stereotype that you have to go do that? And for the people that don’t? Why don’t why does it okay, are just as accepted to jump out into that? And I guess what’s related to construction a little bit to Scotty, I


think, like,

Saleh Mubarak 16:55

I was going to say, I may not agree with you that going to college? Well, it can happen four or five years later, but I would say the United States has a very flexible academic, you know, system that allows you and we are the only country as far as I know, as far as I know, in the world, that allows you to go the first year freshman as undeclared. And then the other flexibility is that, okay, let’s say you you chose marketing, after two years of studying marketing, you said, That’s not for me, I like computers, I want to switch to it. So they allow you to switch, yes, you may lose a couple of credits, but at least they allow you many other systems in other countries, they don’t allow you. But what you say what you said, applies to graduate school. During my work as a professor, I get people who come to me once want to do a master’s degree, and they want me to be there, you know, to supervise their thesis and so on. And I see a profound difference between those who did have work in engineering or construction after the bachelor degree, and then come back later, 10 years later, five years later to do the masters. And those who want to do it immediately after the bachelor degree, I will mention only one difference. Those who don’t have experience, they come to me and say, Professor, can you give me a subject to do my thesis on the others have subjects on mind? And they want me to critique I want to do with this or this. So that’s, but it’s very interesting. I promised autumn that I have a brief PowerPoint presentation on experience versus education. As much as time allows us, I can I can show you a few words, slides.

Natasha Sherwood 18:58

I think that’s changed some too, even though it gives us I have a daughter as a freshman in college now. And I have a high school sophomore, and as they are, she had to you can apply undeclared, but like when I applied it, no one declared a major but so many of them you are applying to certain colleges even even as a freshman now I think that is leading into some of that disconnect, you know, my my freshman who my who just finished her years changed her major three times and you know, eight months, right you know, I mean, she went in this pre med and I think she’s coming out as accounting or some you know, it’s it’s a little bit of craziness on that and I think from some of the studying I’ve done I was a K through 12 principle I put it in my bio I am like a recovering college for everybody. I ran a school for low income students to try to make them college ready thinking that that’s how I was going to solve or contribute to my community like that’s that’s what I was going to do to make a difference until we started finding out that there were options that were not only fulfilling and essential you know that crazy word I never want to hear right essential is one of those words we can we can ban from addiction arena we can be happy is that I wasn’t exposed that that was a career and I, from my research and so forth, a lot of that happened post kind of World War Two. So you went into that area that was at 1944 timeframe when it started becoming the push towards college rather than hard work. And there’s even a poster that says, you know, work smarter rather than harder, and that somehow hard work became the bad thing. And so I think that’s what they have, I believe led to some of the idea that college and then we, we sold a somewhat of a lie. And I’ll say I sold somewhat of a lie that college was a way to escape poverty. And that college was going to be the answer. And whether that was basketball, so let’s play sports to get you out of poverty to get you into college, or let’s do really good in school, they get you out of poverty and, and then what we’ve done is created a gap of skills that we all need. And we’ve created a gap of with people with education that doesn’t necessarily fit what they’re passionate about. And we’ve somehow to an extent as a mom, a high schooler, but we’re starting to, in my personal opinion, ruined some of high school. You know, my, my high schooler can’t take the classes that she’s liked to, that she’s to have fun and learn and actually learn about so she wants to learn about marine biology. But we’re telling we, her guidance counselor, Tiller is no need to take AP Physics and AP, calc A B and A B BC. And she’s like, I hate math. But if you want to get into college, you’ll take D she’s like, but I want to work with sharks. I want to take marine biology, you know, and so it has trickled down. And at some point, I believe we’re making that turn kinda like the hurricane that turned off in a far right, we’re just not turning quite as quickly as some of those Hurricanes were kind of turning slowly. But I think we’re starting to see that, that gap, as in need to fill and so you go back to Scott, when you said kind of about accounting or med school, I, my personal thing is, and maybe 10 to 15 years, we will see college more as an apprentice program. And many of those, if you look at med school, it really kind of is a really the apprentice program, right? Like you are doing related technical instruction during the day. And you are interning and doing other programs. And I think we’ll see a shift towards that, except for things. Engineering is one of the ones I always think of engineering accounting, where there are actual things you learn in class, they’re actually applicable to your class. But I think that’s where we went that post, you know, World War Two, or poverty kind of hit and we wanted to get out of it. And there’s that poster that many of us all, you know, you had the guy working dirty and tired, and the guy had a graduation cap and gown, and somehow one was better than the other instead of both being great additions to our country. Right.

Matt Vetter 22:35

So I think that’s that’s just it, Natasha, and I don’t know that it was even necessarily that long ago, I think within the last 30 years, we have allowed our public school system to go down the toilet. And, and we started removing shop classes from school around 30 years ago, and there was there was economic, purely economic reasoning for that, because you can’t put a standardized test on a shop class or a whole Mac class. You can’t standardize that, and therefore schools can’t can’t fight and gain funding. And, you know, I could go down a rabbit hole of governmental corruption and making the people more reliant on government by forcing us to not learn how to how to handle things on our own, how to build how to create, I don’t know how much time we have or


part two. Yeah,

Matt Vetter 23:27

but I think that’s just it in that, you know, we’ve we’ve, we’ve told kids, that college has to be the way that if you don’t go to college, you’re going to be the the dirty mechanic, turning a wrench. And somehow, we’ve made we’ve allowed that dirty mechanic to be the poster boy for what we don’t want in life for our children for our futures. You know, and instead, we push kids, you know, 18 year old kids to Scott’s point, and we push them into college, we wrap them up in with hundreds of 1000s of dollars of debt that many of them will never repay. And we kind of kick them off the dock and say, go go swim. And let’s see what happens when we could we could change this scenario, and start pushing more trade based education for those kids that were at Fitz, right. College is a great choice for some. I don’t want my brain surgeon to come in and tell me that he learned how to do brain surgery by watching YouTube videos. But it’s not the right choice for everybody. And I think there needs to be that that distinction made and then a larger effort to kind of popularize and promote trade based education.


I think it’s important just go ahead.

Scott Peper 24:38

I was just gonna say if if they if the folks come out of college knew that the dirty guy turned on the ranch have a better, much better ability to pay the college debt off. Then they might actually just went into that right out of the start because a lot of folks come out of school and they just want to make as much money as they can. They don’t necessarily have us. That is a high end goal for them. At the top of the list of four or five things more than it is, this is my purpose in life. And this is how I want to attack it. And for those people in particular, I think you might find, go into somewhere where you get some money, you feel good about yourself, you’re making that money, and then maybe you, you find out dig in to the mechanic aspect. You love cars, and you want to either own a car dealership or you want to bring in exotic cars, you can find your niche in there, and then you can go to school for that and slays point you could do that at night or on the Internet, or you could go to school, while you’re going to add to touch I didn’t want to

Natasha Sherwood 25:35

know it’s always it was just tagging on to put that in as we and that’s part of my huge that’s why I was in Tallahassee yesterday is working on those trade schools and apprentice programs and, and presenting them in this is my big part is not in an alternative to college, that is an equal opportunity to college. And that the assumption we need to change the mind frame and so I’ll be at the American guidance counselor’s conference sometime coming up, I think in June, like guidance counselors, teachers, parents, that it is not the alternative just because your kid is not smart, that we will give them a great option that’s, that is trade school. It is that this amazing kid has the option. Every amazing kid has the option of what is best for their future. So is that college is that CTE career technical education is that an apprenticeship is that trade school? And I go back to my daughter who’s number five or 10 in her class. So the child’s like, you know, she’s just got a mind the world. They never asked her if she wanted to go to college. Now, she probably will. They just assumed that she wanted to. And they were making her drop her career technical education that said, she’ll be vet tech certified. When she graduates she’ll probably make more money than me with regret she could if she wanted to graduate high scoring, she culinary marine biology, she was they were telling her she had to drop one of those. And not even finding out what her passion was. They just assumed that college was the answer. And that’s the part that I think the biggest the tag on to what Matt was saying is lame at some point, gotta figure out what people students are passionate about, or want to do. So then when they go into the workforce, whether it is as an engineer, as in construction, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s running in association, that you can be passionate about it and want to go do well. And just assuming that college is it can be it may be the right thing. Like it can be great. It is a great, man, I have great time in college. Don’t get me wrong, I like going back. But I think the same as I would have done a lot better. My graduate school grades are a lot better than my undergraduate school grades. You know, because I I appreciate it. I read books for information rather than the night before hoping to pass an exam. And so I think that’s the part is in it’s even lower than high school. We’re working with middle schoolers now. So we’re working with Junior Achievement and middle schoolers. And it’s like you have this big gap. Everybody remembers kindergarten when you had like, let’s learn about the helpers week. So you learned about firemen and you learned about you know, law enforcement and did we ever bring in a mechanic? Probably not. But who fixes your car and who builds your building? But then after kindergarten we stop right we forget about any kind of helpers and all we worry about is social emotional learning and this and that. And and then it’s high school and oh yeah. Do you remember in kindergarten which which which helper Do you want to be? And so it’s that aspect of you know what that mechanic turning the wrench may have to Corvettes in a really nice pickup in his backyard to you know, that he paid for without debts. And those are good. You got to make construction sexy.

Autumn Sullivan 28:33

That’s the that’s so I love what you just said we have in Florida we have. We have the great American teacher. I don’t know why it’s called the Great American when apparently only Florida participates in it. But but maybe it’s just aspirational, and we need more states to get on board. But I went and talked to my daughter’s kindergarten class about what it meant to be a professional writer like to make writing your career. And I was thinking to myself, gosh, we should really have a campaign where like construction leaders and laborers come in and talk about what they do for a living like they were interested that I wrote for a living but what they really wanted was for me to read them a kid’s book right because they’re kindergarteners. But if my husband had gone in and brought like ductwork and talked about H fac they would have been fascinated because duct work looks cool, right? Like they they’re a bulldozer


or Right exactly. It’s you step on in the middle of the night when you have little kids you know they just goes because the fire man brings the fire truck and the police officer brings her police her cruiser you know so So bringing back you know bringing back the the fascination with construction as a career and at a young age I think is an important part. I’m interested though because all of you used the same you know, dirty mechanic stereotype. And yes, the eye That is the stereotype around construction, right? There are lots of negative stereotypes around construction and lots of really positive stereotypes around going to college. I am curious if that is, if there is a chicken in the egg component to the culture problems that we see in construction? Do we have the problems we have in construction in terms of culture? Because we were painted this way? Or are we painted this way? Because we have our cultural problems. And anyone who wants to jump in on that question is it’s from an outsider’s perspective. I’m curious about that. Because my construction career started when I started here at mobilization funding.

Natasha Sherwood 30:38

I think it starts with why is dirty, bad? Right. So why is getting dirty, bad? So, you know, I think that’s probably where you get it. And I don’t know which psychology match the chicken or the egg, which, you know, what is it but I think it is that assumption, and it goes back to working hard is not bad. Working dirty is not bad. And that just, you know, and, you know, wasn’t bad when you were a kid to get your hands dirty. Now we sent you know, Hannah ties everything. And heaven forbid, you know, you, you eat some dirt. So I think, in my opinion, it probably starts somehow that dirty is bad. And we associated hard work and being sweaty because, hey, that’s hard. I don’t know,

Matt Vetter 31:18

when it’s, I think it’s our language. It’s how we communicate. So we talk about things right? When I was in high school, voc tech is what we call it. Right? And you could do that. But it was the burnouts, right? It was the kids who were barely hanging on to a high school diploma by a thread that would go and do voc tech. And it was, you can go to college and have have the crown or you can be the burnout and have no options in life. It shouldn’t be pasted as an alternative, it should just be an option. Yes. Yes, I agree. But autumn to your point about culture. I’m going to push back a bit, I don’t think we have a cultural problem in construction. I think, I think the United States in general, as a culture has a problem recognizing that, I think that we have a very vibrant and healing culture that I see. I mean, certainly not in my company, but in in the general industry around us. I think the culture is there, I think people recognize that you can start as a laborer, you could dig a ditch today, but you can own the excavation company, and in 10 years and 15 years, and it, you know, I’m not trying to crap on the construction, or the excuse me, the college route at all, I just think it needs to be on an equal footing as an option, and not one better than the other. Because kids learn differently. Kids have different motivations. And we need to push that men that message to create the culture that we want in this industry.

Saleh Mubarak 32:48

Right. Right. Right. Yeah, I agree with Matt, that it should be an option. And there is a stigma, it’s much worse in other cultures outside the United States that if you don’t go to college, you, you’re doomed to be a low class and so on. So I think in Germany, they have the, the vocational route very well, you know, discipline, and people that are very well respected, and so on. And I mentioned to autumn in a previous conversation, that one of the things, the differences between experience and education is that in experience, you learn how to do it. But in education, you know, also why you do it this way. So for, for example, in reinforced concrete, and I’m, I’m a concrete kind of person, we put the rebar, sometimes in the slab, sometimes on the top, sometimes in the bottom. Why do we do that? You know, that when we explained that in education, but I want to go back to work quickly, to one point about following your passion. I’m a strong advocate of following my passion. And I have five kids, none of them is in engineer so I didn’t put any any pressure on them. Two of them are in the car industry. One works with BMW, the other one with Nissan, and one who might end the I end, my own son, my fourth son, who is crazy about sports, all sports, especially basketball. And now he got a job as a event manager, sports event manager, International Academy. So but at the same time, there is a problem with following your passion, that you get the tunnel vision. You don’t want to learn other supportive subjects, and you focus too much on a narrow niche that this is my passion. I do I want to learn anything about marketing computers, this, this this. And I think that college education gives you the rounded knowledge, which is really, really important. I’m sure that all of you guys probably listen to Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford University. And he mentioned how his those courses he took in graphic design came back. So this rounded knowledge, let’s say history took, you know, I had the issues with my older son, who is OCD. And who would ace some courses, take a and other courses flunk them, you know, he cannot be dumb. Otherwise, he would flunk everything. And he would question that why I’m studying this, why should I take a course in history. And I said, Son, it’s rounded knowledge, that rounded knowledge is good. If you sit in a, you know, with a bunch of guys discussing history, geography, politics, I think you should know a little bit about that. So that’s the problem with following your passion blindly. Without the rounded knowledge,

Scott Peper 36:12

you guys have all touched on something that I heard many say in our just collective individual conversations, whether I’ve talked to you folks or even just our clients. And it’s one thing that I draw attention to is the construction industry, I think is very unique in that if you think about the macro factors of the world that can help you or hurt you. It’s not if you get those big ones, right, you can lay it on a good path. And I think so often college you have to you’re forced to focus, we’ve talked about focusing or know what you want to do or get into the right spot. And then you have this stigma like healthcare as a doctor or nurse or construction as turning a wrench or dirty. And in reality construction, you can do anything in construction, if you start as turning to try to emit you hit the nail on the head, you could be an executive in finance, you can be a labor, you can be middle senior executive leadership and management, you can be a CEO, you can expand out of construction, if you get bored with one scope, and there’s 50 scopes to go into no building. In addition to that, no matter what is going on in the world, your things are going to be getting destroyed and things are going to be getting built, they’re going to be getting rebuilt, the world’s going to change and need new stuff. And all of it is construction. And one of the things I like to say is construction is really the heartbeat of America and a country anything anyone is doing today is directly tied to the construction world where we set what we do how we go about someone had to build it, someone had to create it and constructions attached to it. And so it’s this industry, and we thought about it like that. And you are any type of skill or any type of desire you want, you could if the message was only Hey, look at construction, you could fit it into the construction industry and all these different 50 different spots. And if you try to compare that to other industries, you might not be able to you get there, maybe there’s only 10 spots you could get into or 20. And if it was framed like that, I think we find a lot more people say, You know what, I’m just gonna go get in that industry. And I’ll figure out what I want to do in any way I can get in return a wrench or whatever, go to school first go school later. I don’t know if you any of you share the same thoughts, or have you heard other people frame it that way, or what’s your general,

Natasha Sherwood 38:32

we frame it that way a lot when we go into especially in schools, so we’re always, always promoting our apprenticeship programs. So the idea is after you know, after high school or even in high school, we’ll start you into the apprentice program. And the idea that once you get in even the electrical industry as a subsection of construction is there’s HR, there’s marketing, there are estimating, there has been specialist some guys are sitting there they you know, if you like playing virtual reality at home, you’d be great been specially you know, so you know, there is so many different routes. So we have even from a national level, and from our IC national organization, as we are out there trying to recruit apprentices is putting those different levels where they can be so in what form and a superintendent, you might be in the office, you might be doing the estimating, you might be doing the sales, you might do the marketing. It’s truly a microcosm of college, where you can do that, where you are dealing with people and when we share our office space with one of our contractors and I love going in there and chatting with him in the the cafe area, you could run into the sales guy talking to the low voltage guy, he’s talking to the cybersecurity guy. He’s talking to the estimating and everybody’s chatting about how when where they got to, but it is an industry that doesn’t doesn’t stop. When I was driving home from Tallahassee. I was frustrated yesterday on the road because there were a million semis in front of me, right, you know, they’re taking up the road and they’re slow and I was trying to get home and then I just stopped from him. I was like, you know, two years ago, we were praying for the roads to be back open, right? We wanted you know, trucks and trucks couldn’t move and half those trucks were filled with, you know, lumber and pipes and you know, and I was like, okay, so Ah, this is your industry, this is what’s building, okay, so I’m gonna slow down and enjoy the drive I didn’t have anywhere to be. But that’s the one thing that didn’t stop in as to your point won’t stop. I mean, we’re in Florida, you’re going to need air conditioning, it doesn’t matter if anything happens, your air conditioner has to work. You don’t you don’t know, no offense map, but you don’t call that, you know, mental health counselor, a psychologist or the psychiatrist, or the public relations person. The one thing that you cannot live without in Florida, is air conditioning. You know, you can, you know, we can live without, you know, hurricanes don’t scare us, unless we’re going to turn off our power, we have generators for air conditioning. You know, nothing else matters. And it’s so it is a industry and a career for all of those paths. So whether you do go in as an accounting degree or whatnot, it is it is a career that is long term, and you can move up in it. I mean, there are ways there are set paths, some places you get, you never know where the next step is. There’s some clear paths in construction on where you want to go if you want to. And some just apps, one of my greatest instructors doesn’t want to do anything he loves being in the field. That’s what he loves. Yeah. And I think we all need to realize that. That is what some people want to do be in the field, be outside, be working with your hands, and that is admirable. And that is honorable. And that is an amazing and lucrative with his ideas when I took about two Corvettes and a pickup truck later.

Matt Vetter 41:26

I think to follow up on soleus point about passion. You know, I think a lot of passion is kind of kind of bullshit. Excuse me, but I don’t think an 18 year old kid knows what passion is. I think you have to go out and experience life for 10 years, 20 years, maybe even longer. Before you really can even know what your what your passion is. And I think I did. I did too. I think the rounded learning that you mentioned, I think that’s that’s critical. I don’t know that it has I don’t think it has to be in college. I think you can get a rounded learning and education through numerous avenues. But I think that’s that’s critical to developing and even finding what our real passions are internally.

Saleh Mubarak 42:12

You’re right, Matt. In fact, in fact, I can take that in big corporations, big disciplined corporations. When a new employee a young employee comes in fresh from college, they rotate him or her on all the, you know, divisions. So they first of all, it’s for two purposes, one of them you should have a my long inch deep knowledge of everything. The second thing is that to find your passion, you find it only after you experience it, it’s not just and I’ll tell I’ll tell you the strangest thing about passion. I was a professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia, in the 1990s, between 92 and 98. And one of my best students who wasn’t a student in the program was called construction management. In his third year, he came to me to sign that paper. He said, I’m changing my major. And I said to what he said to history, and I kind of jumped What are you changing from construction management to history? You gotta be crazy. He said, I love history and said, okay, so I signed the paper in the it was the ad dementia. That’s because it’s stuck.

Autumn Sullivan 43:35

Alright, our Chief Customer Officer, John Draco had recently had a post on LinkedIn about how he his college major was art history. And he’s like, No, I, I don’t necessarily use my art history in in what I do now. But I did. But I did learn a lot. And I did learn to learn, right like I it what it taught me was was a continuous love of learning and how to be a good learner. And I think that’s important. And to your point, Matt, I agree. I don’t think that that has to be done in a college setting. I brag all the time that my husband who has a high school diploma is one of the most well read individuals I’ve ever met he out reads me hands down. And, and is has an incredibly well rounded education because of it. But it all happened, you know, on his break in between installing commercial air conditioning systems, because that was his passion. His passion was reading and learning. I want to so we’ve got 15 minutes left. And one of the things I want to talk about is that higher education because I used to work in marketing agencies and I did a lot of marketing for colleges and universities. They spend an awful lot of money, marketing the idea that their education is the path to following your passion. and having two quarterbacks in a pickup truck, right? Like they tell a very effective story. And, and we don’t we construction as an industry does not spend a lot of money on marketing, and especially not on marketing for recruitment purposes. So my question to you guys is what could construction companies be doing that would help tell the story of the potential of our industry to those younger audiences? Natasha, I know you guys do a ton of work with with young, younger audiences, but but also like, what can the actual companies be doing to take control of that narrative?

Matt Vetter 45:40

I mean, get out and talk to these kids. Exactly what Natasha is doing exactly what we’re doing. We talked to local high schools constantly. We, we started a high school aged internship program this year, just to kind of give kids an opportunity to, you know, step into our world and just see what it looks like. And we give them the the flexibility that they can come in, they can pick which route they want to see, they can come and hang out with me and do estimates and talk about marketing and sales, I can put them in the field with my superintendent, and they can get dirty, you know, whichever area they can, they can run social media, you know, but, but I think that’s the critical nature of his because we don’t spend a lot of money on it. But we’re also fighting, you know, 3040 years of, of a mentality that we’re trying to shift, and the only way to do that is, you know, without blowing up the complete education system, the only way to do that is to reach these kids, early enough to give them the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves. And I think it’s just through talking, you know, we, we can only do so much,

Natasha Sherwood 46:46

hey, I think you should just blow up the education system, you know, like, you know, I’m on a mission,

Natasha Sherwood 46:53

there’s, then there’s a couple things that we’ve identified two that I think is important that we’ve talked about, and in a lot of it is we’ve done is making sure that our our teammates that are in the construction industry with us are proud of what they do and talk about it and don’t say, I’m just this, I’m just that, you know, because you’re not, it’s, it’s the same thing as I’m just a stay at home mom, or I’m just a project manager, I’m I’m I’m just an electrician, you know, those are a part of it is changing that. And part of it is and this I’m going to use my my master’s degree from it is being involved in the politics of the Liberal government of your chamber of commerce, politics, school board elections, and is making your voice heard. And that is one aspect that we do with our association is that we are we try to get behind those people that are not only for small business, and you know, for businesses in largest is making sure that as people that are understanding those options is we learned more than anything during this pandemic, that school boards are very powerful in what school stay open, and if they’re wearing masks or not. And if they’re enjoying school, and we are lucky here in Florida, that we are not experiencing a lot of what other places are but I think it is you know, being proud of what you are doing it is getting involved in the politics and it’s like Matt said it is getting in the schools however you can whatever toe you have to be in as you know, volunteering however, you you know, being involved in, you know, Pop Warner Football is that are around you’re talking to those kids, the junior achievements in your area, the great American teaching, whether it’s a great Florida teaching or not, I don’t know whatever it is, it is it is being in there and being proud of what you’re doing and sharing it is how that will be. That being said we’re also spending a crapload of money right now right now here and in sample on doing some billboards about built by you, that’s one of our new things we’re doing with HCC built by you and just really showing the images of what people are building and it is social media advertising. If I can figure out a tick tock for some construction electrician to do that we’ll be doing catch on I see behind that. And sometimes it may seem some of it maybe when we show them about a little bit silly or whatnot, but to grab that age group that we need to to fill, I’m sure it’s the same in construction, we have more electricians who retire every day than I can bring into the industry. So I have to grab their attention. I have to do it quickly. But they have to see people they want to be like and so that is that’s the part of putting it out there. So you know, if you’re not involved in your chamber or your local association, whether it’s ABC or IEC or whatever, you know, union it is in that area. Those are the areas I think that need to start to make those differences so that you do have those options.

Scott Peper 49:43

And go where they are is really what I’m hearing you say go where they are and their online, go online showcase the jobs. I mean, there’s some of the coolest stuff I see on LinkedIn or social media is a construction site and the video attached to it and what it looked like before and what it looks like Like after buy, you know and use the bulldozer analogy we’re talking about for two guys in a build, those are for five days can have the most some of the most impressive video from start to finish and a five day period than anything you possibly see on LinkedIn. And if all of a sudden you attach, like, here’s what these folks make to every single one of those, someone might say, You know what, that’s awesome. I thought, in accounting, I’m going to go in there and I’m going to make X and by the way, the correlation in those worlds, they have no idea if you put $1 sign of what the person is making an accounting after a four year degree. Next to their perception, I think, oh my gosh, this was so much more than what last and the perception of what they thought the person the bulldozers making, compared to what they were they are making, they might be like running towards that bulldozer. So I think the marketing aspect of just that alone would be so critical to helping shape some of the perspectives that people have just so it’s a fair perspective, just so someone’s not thinking the wrong thing. Yeah.

Saleh Mubarak 50:59

You call it a bit of marketing, and you know, it’s marketing slash education, that I think, you know, following your passion, requires you to know all the options. I mean, you may find somebody who likes certain type of food. This is my, you know, favorite food, have you tried other types of food? So I think you the trade schools that Matt talked about was was great. You know, I remember in college, we took trades, you know, welding and carpentry and so on. It’s a good thing when you have a root rotational system that you get exposed to everything. And after that you tell me, you know, which one you you fell in love with? Yeah,

Scott Peper 51:47

I had a mentor, tell me one, start listening to people, not the TV, you know, don’t listen to the government for the day, follow, find a person that you like someone that’s a human that you know their name. And like, you don’t have to know them. But you at least know it’s a person you’re listening to and not a day, or them or a government entity, or the state says or the CDC, like find the human at a place and not just the place. And I thought it was good perspective. And it’s really helped me a ton, many decades ago later. Yeah.

Autumn Sullivan 52:23

We have just a few minutes left. And we do have a question. Jeffrey asks, one thing I’ve always found missing from the trades is clear career path. Some unions do well at this, but the building industry in general has done poorly in explaining how a young person can go from labor to manager and defining that path. So who wants to respond to Jeffrey’s comment?

Natasha Sherwood 52:48

He’s spot on? Spot on? Yeah. And I think you know, that that’s literally what were my, like I said on our National Board for, for IEC. And that’s what we’re trying to delineate, and we’re trying to work out what is that path so that we can explain helper, apprentice, electrician, foreman, Superintendent, you know, project manager, what’s next and and then the salaries and dollars that go with it. And then some of them, then, you know, the, it’ll split out. And there is that is part of the education that we have not told them that you can spend four years in college and go be an accountant, and it’s been four or five years, and then you get to be a senior accountant, or you can spend four years as an apprentice working, you’re probably a good superintendent, by the time you get out of that apprentice program if you work for one company. And so we’ve done a poor job. And I think that is part of the marketing that has to be done is to show those and not just to the student, and not just to the employee that has to be shown to the guidance counselor, and the parent. I mean, let’s be you know, those parents want to say my kid went to XYZ college. That’s why you know, 70,000 people apply to Harvard, when they’re going to accept 3000, they just want to say, we know where they went. So it needs to be this is the path. But it’s interesting, because how many people really know the path of a CEO? You know, how did you how many people really know the path of an accountant, but because those came from college, somehow that gets to Trump that what is the plan, you know, for construction someone in the construction industry, but we do we have to take extra steps that we maybe didn’t before.

Autumn Sullivan 54:27

It’s interesting, because I’m thinking from, from a marketing standpoint, because I always am. That’s an easy, that’s an easy Tiktok to make, actually, to show a person you know, labor and what they make and then one year later and what they make and show that progression. I mean, that’s that’s an easy viral item

Natasha Sherwood 54:45

to find some good yet. Don’t ever vote to have that one post that went viral on LinkedIn. 1.6 million views. It’s the worst thing in your entire life to go viral because it beings all night on LinkedIn, bing, bing, bing, and if you You turn it off, and somebody disagrees with you, and you haven’t responded. So but yeah, so a via it would be an easy viral Instagram. But um, but it’s funny that that that post is exactly what we’re talking about essentially is normalizing the idea to the four year trade school is as good as a four year college. If I

Saleh Mubarak 55:17

can add one thing quickly here, in the path itself, there are paths, not just one, many people don’t understand that, that having a technical skills does not necessarily mean that you can run an organization that if you are a good in repair of HVAC, you mentioned HVAC, okay, you may be a brilliant technician, but a miserable manager. Those kinds of skills, some of them you’re born with, and some of them you have to polish those those skills. I know I have a brother in law, who now passed away, who was a great chef in in culinary school in he worked with the Disney Corporation, you know, he was brilliant. He tried to run his own business, and he failed miserably. So and some people are, by nature enterpreneurs they want to do their own business. Some of them are better stay as employ employees for the rest of their lives. So I don’t know how to put it, but you need to learn the skills required because before and be ready before you jump in.

Autumn Sullivan 56:34

That’s so true. That’s so true. One of our podcasts this season, we have a podcast called The real innovators. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please go subscribe after the end of this webinar. It’s available everywhere you get your pods, but one of our one of the episodes was with a business owner, Calvin Weathersby. And he talked about how he meets with his team and asks them what their what they want to accomplish. You know, where do you see yourself in three years, five years, and then he actually works with them to create their path? Because you’re right, when you walk into college, they’re like, Oh, you’re going for English? Well, then you want to be an English teacher, here are the courses you have to take. This is your path. But I went to college for English and I didn’t want to be an English teacher that sounded like hell on earth to me, I. And I’m pretty sure it’s like, I don’t want to do that. But no one said to me, you could get into marketing, or you could be an editor or you there was just one path. And it didn’t work for me. So we need to get better about showing that there are lots of paths, you know, to entrepreneurialism, to, to whatever it is you want to accomplish.

Natasha Sherwood 57:41

It’s not mutually exclusive. I mean, we talked about like, my students who are my apprentices are in college. So they’re taking RTI related technical instruction from us, they are doing four years at the college, they walk out with 32 to 46 college credits if they want to go take the next step. And we’re doing a horrible job of explaining that to it’s like a it’s like a community college scholarship. That it doesn’t mean that this is the end goes back kind of thing. It’s got to be any I’d have been a much better college student if I’ve done something else years. Yeah, before I got into college, even just

Scott Peper 58:26

On the next webinar, we’ll talk about having your phone or your face stuffed in your phone for eight hours a day isn’t going to help you either. From my parental conversations that I’m suffering through on my own children.

Autumn Sullivan 58:54

Well, that is our time for today. I can’t thank you all enough for taking time out of your busy days to join us for this conversation. It was hugely valuable for our audience and super entertaining to be a part of. So thank you.

Matt Vetter 59:09

Thanks for having us. I mean, this isn’t a conversation. This could have gone three hours.

Scott Peper 59:16

Review, if there’s anything that Autumn and I could do or through us that can help you in creating that meme that Tiktok a slide, anything that you could use with your network, let us know I’d love to be able to give that to you guys as our gift for you. If it’s a way of helping we different contacts we have if you said hey, it’d be great if I had a video that did this, this and this. And it was some cartoon and you could utilize it tasked us with doing that. You tell us how and we’ll do it. And I’d love to make that part of what you guys can push out from here to actually make it more than just a one hour conversation and actually turn into producible results. Absolutely.

Natasha Sherwood 1:00:00

If I may have to do that, that Tiktok does, like now it’s spinning my head. I’m like, we can just pop point, point point point. I’m like, I’m going through all the stupid dances in the stupid Instagrams eyes. Watch. I’m like, we have to be together auto email me.

Scott Peper 1:00:11

Yeah. Well, you will text us what it is. If I had this, I could do this much more than that. And we’ll do it. We’ll make it happen. Will you ask us we’ll figure it out and we’ll deliver it. What would be the thing that would help? Yep.

Autumn Sullivan 1:00:29

Thanks so much. All right. Thank you,

Scott Peper 1:00:33

everybody. Appreciate it. Take care.