Enlightening Girls about Careers in Construction

Women remain under-represented in the construction industry, and yet there are many rewarding career opportunities for women. To educate middle school girls and their mothers about construction as a career path, Power Up: It’s a Mother Daughter Thing! will be held March 21, 2017 in Birmingham, Ala. Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, is one of several speakers who will share her personal journey and discuss tips for success in construction.

The is a collaborative partnership of the Central Six Development Council, Alabama Workforce Council Region 4, Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, Robins & Morton, and AIDT/AWTC. More than 300 attendees, employer partners, and training providers attended the first event in 2016.

The one-day event includes information tables from area employers in construction who will provide education on careers related to the firm’s services. In addition, presentations by female professionals will who work as project managers, estimators, schedulers, quality control managers, engineers, and business developers.

Debbie Dickinson shared her experience. “When people ask what I do, eyes get big and the most common response is, ‘Really? How did you get into that line of work?’ There is little awareness, particularly among young women and their parents, about the great careers in our industry.  Knowing I have their attention, it is fun to talk about developing skills and adapting training to next generation learners, safety, and the long-term satisfaction related to being involved in the construction of buildings or infrastructure.”

The event will be held from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the AIDT/Alabama Workforce Training Center at 3500 6th Avenue South, Birmingham. Students who are interested in attending should contact their school guidance counselor or principal for more information.

“Applications are disseminated to career technical education directors, career coaches, guidance counselors, and principals in our region. Young women must have the application signed by a female legal guardian, who will attend the event with the student,” explained Edie Gibson, Industry Coordinator for Central Six Development Council.

Other Resources for parents and educators about women working in construction:

CPWR The Center for Construction Research and Training

National Association of Women in Construction

OSHA Women in Construction

The Rise of Women in the Construction Industry, blog post by Construction Labor Contractors

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SCOAR forms College & Technical Scholarships Committee

Southeastern Construction Owners & Association RoundtableDebbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS, has been selected as Awareness Chairperson for a new College & Technical Scholarships Committee formed by the Southern Construction Owners and Associates Roundtable. The committee’s objectives are to heighten awareness and to clarify how individuals can earn scholarships provided by SCOAR members.

A number of scholarships are available for students interested in construction safety, engineering, and technical craft skills. Applications are vetted by SkillsUSA and the Scholarships Committee will receive support from NCCER. Other members of the committee include Mittie Cannon, AMEC Foster Wheeler, and Juan Romero, FBM-SPI.

If your company is a member of SCOAR and is interested in providing scholarships to be promoted through SCOAR, please contact Debbie Dickinson at debbie@craneindustryservices.com.

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Does your organization need to muck out the llama dung?

By Debbie Dickinson

Randy Bakel, Executive Director of the Southeastern Construction Owners & Associates Roundtable (SCOAR), recently shared a story that reminded me of the importance of performing safety and productivity audits. During the Feb. 2 Program Meeting, held in Orlando, Fla., Bakel shared this story about outdated military specifications.

In the early 1940s, so the story goes, The U.S. Army wanted a dependable supply of llama dung, as required for treating the leather used in airplane seats. Submarine attacks made shipping from South America unreliable, so the Army attempted to establish a herd of llamas in New Jersey. Only after the attempt failed did anyone question the specification.

Subsequent research revealed that the U.S. Army had copied British Army specs dating back to Great Britain’s colonial expansion. The original specification applied to saddle leather needed by the Calvary. Apparently the leather smell made untrained horses skittish. Treating the saddle leather with llama dung imparted an odor that calmed the horses. The treatment, therefore, became part of the specification for the leather, which remained unchanged for a century.

Safety and productivity audits help companies work safer and smarter by identifying gaps in skills and knowledge. The tendency is to keep doing what we always do. Audits provide managers with an opportunity to step back and assess potential improvements. While, engineers may need to question the rationale behind specifications, safety managers, supervisors, and trainers, may need to make sure training is not just compliance based. Crane Industry Services designs audits to help employers develop industry best practices that result in selecting workers with the right skills for industry specific job tasks.

“Sometimes we get so good at solving problems that we forget to ask if the problem has been posed correctly. On your next project, make sure you know the reasoning behind the specs. If the reason given is ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it,’ watch out for llama dung,” said Bakel.

The next SCOAR meeting is May 8-10, 2017 in Longboat Key, Fla.

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Sometimes Safety is Best Achieved by Somebody’s Daughter

By Debbie Dickinson

Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, there are opportunities to stop and reflect on what is important to us an individuals, as project and team leaders, and as companies. Crane Industry Services is thankful for the people we’ve worked with this past year, who share the common goal of keeping America’s workforce safe.

While we hope we are an integral part of your training and inspection plans, the hard work of implementing safety and health programs inside your organizations falls on your shoulders. To inspire you in 2017, we’d like to share a few stories and resources.


Handy Dan by Angela. Credit: Safety + Health magazine.

The Campbell Institute of the National Safety Council honors organizations that sustain excellence in health and safety activities. Richard Cerenzio is Corporate HSE director at ISN, a member of the Campbell Institute. He recently posted a story about how a poster contest open to worker’s families was successful at engaging workers to reduce injuries. Thanks to some creative thinking and a 14-year-old girl’s poster of Handy Dan the purple octopus, hand-related recordable injuries dropped by more than half.

During your downtime this holiday season you might want to read OSHA’s new Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction. Perhaps not as engaging as the story about Handy Dan, but equally worthwhile. This new document is a complement to recommended practices for employers in general industry.

The recommendations may be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized contractors who lack safety and health specialists on staff. Contractors can create a safety and health program using a number of simple steps that include: training workers on how to identify and control hazards; inspecting the jobsite with workers to identify problems with equipment and materials; osha-shcand developing responses to possible emergency scenarios in advance.

As we look to the future, our promise to you is that crane and rigging training programs provided by CIS will never be one size fits all. We seek to partner with you to provide hands-on, job relevant instruction with the priority on doing jobs right, without exception. Thank you for blessing us in 2016. We look forward to supporting your safety and health goals.

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High School Students to Participate in Crane Simulator Training

cefga_logoIn November, more than 20 high school students, sponsored by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA), will participate in training and development programs offered by Crane Industry Services.  In addition to receiving an overview about careers in construction, the students will take part in a study to determine the value of crane simulators.  Students applied to and were selected by CEFGA. Additional groups from other campuses are expected to participate throughout 2017.

“As novices, with no previous exposure to crane operation, the high school students meet the qualifications of one of three populations we are studying,” said Debbie Dickinson, CEO of CIS. “The students will be given classroom instruction on crane safety concepts. The simulator will be used to determine what level of skill can be achieved, and whether this training is effective at producing entry level operators.” The study’s co-partners are CIS, CM Labs, and West Georgia Technical College.

Dickinson serves on a CEFGA committee designed to connect teachers, students, and industry. “It is our goal that this relationship with CEFGA will become part of our TradeUp initiative to develop skilled craft professionals and to connect those individuals with employers,” said Dickinson.