It’s no secret that the construction industry has dealt with labor shortage issues over the past several years, and we’ve seen countless calls for renewed interest in the trades. The problem persists, and so the focus has shifted to solutions that address specific demographics. How do we get the next generation interested in construction careers? How do we make sure women and minorities know that they’re welcome and needed in construction? How do we encourage mentorship so that we don’t lose the wealth of knowledge and experience of veteran owners and operators?
Early in 2020, as people were making plans to attend CONEXPO, several women leveraged the #womeninconstruction hashtag on Instagram to find others attending the trade show in Las Vegas and made plans to meet up. What started as an Instagram hashtag community soon led to friendships and mentorships all across the country.
“We were a group of women in construction, working in all facets of the industry, and once we got to talking we found a common thread with problems we were all facing in the industry. Mainly trying to find ways to have an impact,” says Kristina Mahler, founder of Crew Collaborative.
The momentum for a new kind of women-in-construction movement was strong. “We’d all been going to ‘women in construction’ events our entire careers but not finding the traction we were looking for,” says Kristina. “We quickly realized that in order to have real impact we needed to pull more men into the discussion.”
The idea for Crew Collaborative was born – a co-ed organization that’s less about women in construction and more about everyone in construction. The group believes that being all inclusive will naturally lead to more women in the field. “We want construction to be the type of industry that everyone sees as a viable career options – whether you’re graduating high school or looking for a mid-career switch,” says Janeen Oliver, Crew Collaborative Board President.
Kristina and Janeen have assembled a co-ed board (50% women, 50% men) for Crew Collaborative with diverse experience within the construction industry, and they’re hitting the ground running. Their first board retreat is this month, where they’ll be focused on building the organizational structure for programs they hope will bring the change they’ve all been looking for.
“We’ve got a group of super amped people who love this industry. Right now we’re being very tactical in channeling that high level of passion and perseverance,” says Kristina. “We’re working on pulling together this community and creating a direction for it, because our industry can’t afford to wait anymore for workforce development programs.”
It’s clear immediately in speaking with Kristina and Janeen that they’re both passionate about their careers and the construction industry. But they’re also both really passionate about bringing others along for the ride.
“I would like to see us working toward changing some of the misperceptions about the construction industry and who does the work,” says Janeen. “These are really rad jobs, and the people who work these jobs are hardworking, genuine, and very smart. We all have immense pride in what we’re doing. Talk about leaving a legacy, construction workers have a huge impact on our world and the growth you see all around you. If you work in construction, you can drive by something 10, 15, even 30 or more years from now and say – I built that. Let’s make construction cool again, because it is.”
For Kristina it’s all about the sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself. “What’s great about the online construction community is that sense of being on a team, even if you’re an operator who’s alone in a cab all day. I want people to have a sense of pride and belonging. That’s why we started #ontheCrew,” she says. “Amplifying that declaration is an important part of expanding our community. It’s a way to say – I’m in construction and I’m really proud of what I do.”
Kristina and Janeen say the Crew Collaborative board has been overwhelmed by the messages coming in on their website and social media platforms and they’re excited to be building a database of people from all corners of the industry, and the world, to support their upcoming programs.
Here’s a few things you can do to get involved now:
Who wouldn’t be looking for a job in construction? Especially right now. Our work is essential. The office views are #goals. The pay is great. The community is strong. And now there’s a whole Crew Collaborative cheering you on and ready to build you up.
Caterpillar is proud to be a founding supporter of the Crew Collaborative, and we can’t wait to see what we can bring to the industry together. Are you ready? It’s time to get #ontheCrew!
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