Magazine article Talent Development

Break Your Ground with HITT: HITT Contracting's Hands-On Training Is at the Heart of Instruction for Interns and New Employees Entering the Construction Industry

Magazine article Talent Development

Break Your Ground with HITT: HITT Contracting's Hands-On Training Is at the Heart of Instruction for Interns and New Employees Entering the Construction Industry

Article excerpt

Long hours, hazardous worksites, intense clients, and stressful schedules-these are not exactly great selling points for making construction a top career choice among Millennials. The industry as a whole is struggling with trying to entice more people to enter into the construction business to replace a rapidly aging workforce in a growing economy. Despite a rigorous work environment, more and more students are beginning their careers with HITT Contracting, looking for structure and growth potential. They find both with the HITT Futures Leadership Program.

Chairman Russell Hitt recalls stories of some of his first jobs at HITT: He helped his parents with odd jobs such as cleaning trucks and organizing nails to earn money; no job was too small. This was in the early 1950s, when HITT was still a mom-and-pop painting and decorating shop run out of the dining room of the Hitts's home in Arlington, Virginia.

Russell set out on his own with no guidance, no training, and no mentor, just some tools and a direction to get the job done. He had self-motivation and good judgment-two traits that have helped HITT grow its revenue to more than $1 billion and run successfully for almost 80 years.

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Russell grew up surrounded by the business, but focused more on fieldwork and operations. He rode with superintendents to job sites and assisted with painting, bricklaying, floor sanding, and general carpentry. He got to do a little bit of everything, and says, "I was never the master of any one trade, but I learned everything. I had hands-on learning."

Hands-on learning

HITT today is a big believer in hands-on learning and invests heavily into its Futures Leadership Program, a four-phase program that provides a structured and supportive learning and growth path for inexperienced team members interested in the construction industry. The program is the brain child of Executive Vice President John Britt, who recognized a need for better training on job sites. HITT used to hire assistant project managers who had never set foot on a project site to work on and help run projects from the office. They had never seen concrete being poured or drywall being hung, yet these assistant project managers were expected to scope, schedule, and run that same work.

HITT hired its first project engineer in 2005 into what was then the management training program. Project engineers were generally recent college graduates who had less than two years of commercial construction experience. Each was paired with a seasoned superintendent and assigned to a project site. Project engineers remain the charge of the superintendent and on-site for at least one year. After their site experience, the project engineers chose to either stay in the field as an assistant superintendent or head to the office as an assistant project manager.

Superintendents are evaluated and carefully selected to be paired with project engineers. HITT places an extremely high value on teaching, mentoring, and setting a positive example. Our superintendents are not just training someone how to do a job; they are creating an experience and impression that will heavily influence a young person's entire career.

While many of the program's superintendents are senior-level team members, being at that level does not automatically qualify someone to be paired with a project engineer. Chosen superintendents are not only well-skilled in and knowledgeable about construction; they also are proven teachers, patient, and willing to take project engineers under their wing and coach them.

Project engineers learn things such as how to read construction drawings, and what a VAV box is, and The HITT Way. Russell's parents instilled in him qualities such as honesty, trust, integrity, and a passion for helping others. He found efficient solutions and never took advantage of people-"It's all about relationships," he says. …

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