Hiring for Behaviors, Teaching for Skills: Why Veterans are Invaluable to the Construction Industry

In the next five years, the construction industry is expected to add 1.6 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a general contractor specializing in multi-family developments in Texas, this job growth comes as no surprise to us. We’ve been riding the construction wave for a while. Yardi Matrix recently reported that Dallas-Fort Worth has seen the largest population increase in the entire country, adding around 143,000 new residents from 2015 to 2016.

While the increase in demand is great for business, it has put more pressure on construction companies to acquire quality talent as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there is a pool of individuals willing to work who possess the innate skills that are indispensable to the construction industry — our former military personnel.

Bridging the Two Parties

Natural leaders, dependable team players, tenacious work ethic and problem solvers — these are all desirable traits veterans acquire in the military. However, it can be a difficult task getting hiring managers to recognize these intangible skillsets as valuable and to not immediately gravitate towards a candidate with industry experience. This is where the Department of Labor steps in.

“It’s not that veterans or transitioning service members don’t have the skills or don’t even have the background and experience, it’s that a lot of employers don’t know how to recognize that talent because military jobs have different titles and descriptions,” said Roxann Griffith, Regional Veterans Employment Coordinator with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Once a potential employer is aware of the talent veterans can add to the team, the Department of Labor can work with the employer to design an apprenticeship or training program to get veterans up to speed on where the industry and their employer needs them to be.

Partnering with Military Recruiting Firms

Another way to bridge the gap between employers and veterans is by working through military recruiting firms like Orion Talent™. KWA has worked closely with Dominick Serra, an Army Veteran and current account executive with Orion.

Serra took the time to learn about KWA Construction’s needs, company culture and the characteristics that make up successful superintendents, project coordinators, project engineers and field operations managers. From there, he created a profile of what the ideal candidate would look like for KWA, and led his team in finding a group of military candidates that met this description. The result? Four very successful recruits. Currently, there are 12 veterans on the team, including KWA’s founder and chairman, Keller Webster, who served in the U.S. Army.

“These are men and women who are experts at leading people. They know how to motivate and engage for results,” said Jessica Medlin, Human Resources Manager at KWA Construction. “So even though they may not have much, if any, construction experience, they have the leadership skills and behaviors that we are always seeking.”

Luckily, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Veterans often find career satisfaction working in the construction industry, especially when hired by companies that place extra emphasis on culture and treating employees like family.

“You can find plenty of team culture within the construction industry, and a lot of organizations I work with, like KWA Construction, carry a close-knit family feel,” said Serra. “That’s what really seals it for our veterans.”

Serra added that veterans are also attracted to the dynamic environment of the construction industry. Coordinating with various teams, including vendors and contractors, creates similar structures to organizations like the Army or the Marine Corps.

At KWA, we’ve always taken hiring for attitude very seriously. Skills can be taught, but behaviors are typically ingrained, and that’s why we make it a point to hire well from the beginning by looking for individuals who possess a strong willingness to work and learn.

We’ve truly found a perfect match with hiring veterans. KWA is proud to welcome the men and women who have bravely served our country to our team.