Recently, a client of ours invited me to attend the Service Academy Career Conference (SACC) in Jacksonville, FL. The client assured me the academy graduates were not the average men and women who we are so thankful for, serving our country, but the elite of the elite who have leadership skills, academic accomplishments, and the ability to commit to the challenges of learning a new industry and the career encounters associated with the ramp-up.
Prior to attending the conference, my education on the differences between the mainstream enlisted military and the academy graduates was only solidified when I arrived at the conference and met these impressive men and women. In addition, I learned a good share of them have established families, and although I do not know the actual percentage, they have spouses who served or are serving alongside them.
The client I attended with, along with her spouse, is an academy graduate, and the two of them offered valuable insight to those transitioning. My accompaniment was not only to help them recruit for their small business in construction but also to offer the graduates an understanding of the construction industry itself and the overall diversity of career opportunities, company cultures, and career paths. We offered those who came to our booth the opportunity to complete a free DiSC assessment to learn more about their workplace style and gain perspective on the environment they might best thrive in.
Most of the companies that participated in the career fair were corporates, such as Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan, Amazon, Nextera, and KPMG, and, after the finance and engineering majors, they included the true rocket scientists. Our industry affiliates included Bechtel, Haskell, and Lowes, who have established military recruiting and training divisions.
The graduates, especially those with industrial, mechanical, and civil engineering degrees, have the processing skills required to enter the construction management arena. They all bring prior work experience, including leadership with formal training and obviously proven soft skills, including the ability to stay calm and focused with unpredictable conditions.
What do they need from their new employer to succeed?
1. Competitive wages
Most of them are already earning $75,000 a year or more and have all of their housing costs covered, so the option to start them out on a Project Engineering pay rate will not be viable for most without a clear path for rapid advancement once they prove their abilities. This is especially true if they are supporting a family.
2. Industry training
This includes terminology, technology, reporting and communication processes, and clear expectations for the roles they are hired for.
3. A mentor who understands the emotional side of the transition
If you have someone in your firm who has already succeeded in a transition from a military career to a construction management career, they can help with any relational challenges that cannot be learned through studying plans, standard operating procedures, and contractual obligations.
Military academy graduates range from five years of service to as many as twenty-five years of service, which also plays into how easily they can transition to a new career.
In addition to the engineering graduates, there are those with degrees in business administration and management, legal studies, information technology, international relations, economics and finance, and other majors. These, combined with their work experience and leadership training, make them excellent employees for the support services in our industry, such as accounting, finance, business development, risk management, and information technology/VDT departmental roles.
For any company currently building or pursuing federal projects, an academy graduate on your team adds value to that pursuit. Attending the conference, you quickly see their lifetime support of one another across the branches.
The next SACC conference is May 5–6 in Washington, DC. I noticed that Clark Construction is already signed up. If hiring an academy graduate is of interest to you, more information is available at https://sacc-jobfair.com/.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have gone to the conference and to have met these smart, personable, and motivated men and women who gave to us. Now it’s our turn to give to them. May you and others in the construction industry show them how fulfilling a career building America and the world can be.