LABOR TEMPLE

Left to right: Brandi Johnson, sheet metal worker; KB Amador, steamfitter and Liz Schneider, plumber, all with H&H Industries, Inc., talk last year with Tameka McGriff, of Madison, during a recruitment meeting at the Labor Temple in Madison.

Construction firm CG Schmidt has some big projects on the calendar and it wants small business enterprise firms, women-owned contractors and minority-owned contractors in the Madison area to participate. 

To help build those connections, CG Schmidt will host a “Diversity Pipeline Engagement Session” on Thursday, Jan. 31 to let contractors know how they can get involved. The event runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., #200.

As a construction management and general contracting firm, CG Schmidt routinely bids out projects on behalf of its clients.

Bryce Unger, managing director and leader of the diversity program at CG Schmidt, said the company has been trying to increase the amount of work it does with diverse contractors over the last 15 years. Without intentional outreach, the company would contract with a low percentage of diverse contractors, Unger said. 

One simple reason for that, Unger said, is that contractors might not have the right connections.

“We believe it’s our duty to actively seek out and create opportunities for groups to be a part of that process any way we can, who may not have historically been able to participate,” said Dan Chovanec, general manager of the firm's Madison office, in a press release.

If a company can’t do the full scope of work required, the firm is willing to break the project into small pieces. If there’s a scheduling problem, CG Schmidt can adjust.

“It’s looking at these, instance by instance, and saying, ‘How could we get this person involved?’” Unger said. “It’s … taking the time and understanding what contractors are able to do and how they could fit in, versus a standard mode would be, ‘Here’s a one size fits all,’ and that winds up excluding people.’”

A May Cap Times cover story detailed the high demand for construction, manufacturing and skilled trade jobs in the area. Bill Clingan, a program coordinator for the workforce development organization Big Step, said the industry needs to recruit outside the white male population in Dane County.

“If you don’t tap into the demographics of the times, including women, then you’re not going to be competitive,” he said. “The other industries aren’t going to sit on their tail and kind of say, ‘Oh please come to us.’ They’re going to go out and get these folks.”

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The Jan. 31 event is a two-way street, Unger said: CG Schmidt tells attendees about the demand, talking about upcoming projects and explaining what they’ll need, and the attendees talk about what they can supply. CG Schmidt has held a similar session in Milwaukee, which received a “very good response,” Unger said.

Some of those bigger projects include a new high school for the Wisconsin Dells School District and the Madison Youth Arts Center just off East Washington Avenue, Chovanec said.

“Construction projects are a tremendous way for businesses to reinvest in their communities,” Chovanec said in the press release. “They create good-paying jobs, build valuable skills and give people a chance to directly have a lasting impact on the places they live, work and play.”

Those interested can email madison@cgschmidt.com to RSVP for the event.

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