Suffolk Construction’s Career Start program celebrates 10 years
Program is the foundation of national builder’s revolutionary Build Smart approach
ESTERO, Fla. (March 30, 2017) – Suffolk Construction launched its internal Career Start program in 2007 as a “boot camp” for its “build smart” approach to construction management.
A decade later, 179 employees have graduated from the program nationally, and the company is seeing an incredibly high retention rate among graduates.
“Career Start is the foundation for our revolutionary approach to construction and our ‘build smart’ philosophy,” said Vice President of Operations Josh Christensen. “This is where we begin to develop and support the innovative, curious and forward-thinking construction professionals who will become leaders for our company.”
“Unlike many companies that offer development courses as an added perk, our state-of-the-art learning and development programs are absolutely critical to our success,” said Pete Tuffo, chief operating officer for Suffolk Construction’s southeast region. “Career Start offers a solid foundation of skills that ultimately help our people consistently deliver quality projects while exceeding client expectations. Our technical course offerings teach our people the construction management skills necessary to build quality buildings on time and on budget, while our leadership training courses reinforce our focus on collaboration and communication.”
In the recent active construction market, Suffolk has leveraged its Career Start program to bolster recruiting efforts and develop new hires. The Career Start program provides recent college graduates with eight-month rotations in each of the company’s main operational areas: project management, field operations and preconstruction. During the program, the employee’s skills and competencies are identified and nurtured with the help of a personal mentor.
“Once a Career Start participant graduates, he or she has a full understanding of our unique ‘build smart’ approach to providing the best experience for our clients and partners,” said Christensen. “They’re fully prepared to provide innovative solutions using processes such as Lean Construction and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). And the level of talent with these young professionals is extraordinary to watch, especially as it relates to technology.”
Suffolk provides a carefully planned learning environment to encourage career growth. While a college degree is required, a degree in building construction or a related major is not. In fact, some of the company’s most recent Career Start hires hold degrees in political science, economics, sociology, engineering and more. The company attributes much of its success to this outside-the-box approach to recruiting new talent.
“The Career Start program provided me with a truly hands-on, real world approach to construction management,” said Mike Trenski, 2016 graduate of the program. “Switching from a career in software development, I was put in a position to learn from the best and brightest in all three major operational areas of the business.”
Trenski now serves as an assistant project manager working on Suffolk’s Moorings Park Grey Oaks – Phase 4 project in Naples.
Current Career Start participant Jack Hernandez works alongside Trenski as a project engineer at Moorings Park and, similar to Trenski, didn’t have a background in construction. Hernandez graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2016 with a degree in accounting.
“Coming into the Career Start program, I wasn’t sure how involved I’d be with the day-to-day operations as a newcomer, but the project teams have fully engaged me which has accelerated the learning process, especially with the tools and technologies that Suffolk uses,” said Hernandez.
Currently on his project management rotation, Hernandez is supporting the team with implementing safety, budget and schedule certainty as well as the quality control process.
Suffolk’s investment in learning and development is significant, and the company utilizes its most experienced and knowledgeable staff members to serve as instructors for its customized curricula.
For Suffolk General Manager Jeff Gouveia, Jr., investing in such a robust professional and personal development program simply makes good business sense.
“It’s hard to remember a time when learning and development wasn’t at the core of the company,” said Gouveia, who has been with the company for more than 20 years. “Our focus on hiring people who share our core values and then supporting them to become the very best construction professionals in the industry has really allowed us to transform the experience for our clients.”
“Because of the unique rotational format and the people who have served as my mentors, Career Start is giving me a solid foundation for my career in construction management,” said current Career Start participant Jovi Ripert, who joined Suffolk after graduating from Stanford University in civil and environmental engineering in 2016.
Ripert is currently assisting on various local projects while completing his first rotation in the estimating department.
Mentors help familiarize new Career Start participants with the company’s strong corporate culture and processes while providing support and encouragement for a more productive work environment and shortened learning curve. Senior advisors are also assigned to each employee to help maintain continuity throughout the entire Career Start program, ensuring they have completed all rotations successfully and providing input to properly place the employee into the most appropriate position and department upon completion.
The investment in the program has clearly paid off. A number of graduates remain with Suffolk and have since grown into senior leadership roles. Andy Frank, a graduate of one of the very first Career Start classes in Boston, now serves as a senior project manager on the Ritz Residences project in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
“The Career Start program demonstrated the company’s investment in my growth, and since then, I’ve been able to continue building my skills and accelerating my career, all with continued support from the company and my peers,” said Frank.
Suffolk’s training program has been ranked number one in the construction industry by Training Magazine, and the company has consistently been named to numerous ‘best workplace’ lists throughout the country, including Florida Trend’s Best Companies to Work for in Florida and South Florida Business Journal’s Best Places to Work.
It’s safe to say, the connection between employee satisfaction and Suffolk’s investment in the development of its people is no coincidence.