Workforce Development Opportunities and Student Engagement at McCownGordon Construction

A group of McCownGordon Construction interns touring a jobsite

Workforce development opportunities cultivate a cycle of success within our communities. Beginning in grade school, McCownGordon Construction introduces students to the vital industry of construction and follows through with college internships, scholarship opportunities, community outreach, and mentorship. More than half of the interns coming through our program convert into full-time associates. 

Construction as a learning tool

There are a lot of ways to involve students throughout school construction projects. This provides districts an opportunity to show students the construction pathway and the various skilled trade professions. McCownGordon sends experts in to speak to the students about the need for trade workers and offer background information on different positions in construction. When possible, we take the students on site tours and facilitate workshops. 

K-12 education construction serves as a foundational part of our company. Not only because it accounts for a significant portion of our revenue, but because it aligns with our values and allows us to be engaged in our communities. 

workforce development opportunities start in elementary schools like this one built by McCownGordon Construction

Inspiring the community’s youth

During one project, we held a shovel design contest for elementary school students. They submitted their shovel design and then were able to use those shovels during a groundbreaking ceremony on one of our school jobsites. 

Through this event, we engaged the students’ creativity and incorporated some of the fundamentals of construction into their lessons. It really inspires a young student when they see a future new elementary school they can witness from the ground up.

For older students, job shadowing and mentorships provide a realistic, educational, in-depth look at the industry. Currently there’s a shift happening in our culture that accepts not everyone is meant to go to a 4-year college. There are 2-year degrees and programs where these young people learn useful work skills, get their certification, and enter the workforce after high school while earning a great living. 

With so much pressure still guiding students toward the university pathway, McCownGordon believes it is important to educate these kids on the full scope of their opportunities after high school, whether that’s pursuing construction management or another field of study in college, attending a trade school, or undergoing an apprenticeship.

Student and community engagement

The opportunity to engage the local community while working on school projects is one we recognized quickly. For students, they have an opportunity to see a real life science and math experiment in the form of a construction project they can see, touch, and feel throughout the course of the project. They get tangible experiences and use for the lessons they learn in the classroom. 

Our company is intentional about investing and engaging with the students in our communities. We do food drives and winter coat drives plus get involved with nonprofits like National Institute of Construction Excellence which reaches a bigger cross section of kids through their yearly I-Build program

K-12 VP Market Leader Luke Deets described McCownGordon’s focus on community and student engagement as “a great case study in what you can do if you’re willing to invest the time.” 

“It’s a cultural part of who we are,” he said. “It helps set us apart from our competition, but more importantly our outreach intends to make a generational difference in the communities in which we work.”

Educating on the trade pathway

McCownGordon Construction works hard to help students recognize their options to pursue careers as a skilled tradespeople instead of pursuing a 4-year college degree.

“We are in such a need for young people to get into the trades and the construction industry,” said Business Development Director Sara Holmes. “We make them aware of the opportunities in all facets of construction, including welding, electrical, mechanical and beyond. The best way we can have an impact is educating these students on the wide range of paths within the trades themselves.” 

The expanding role of technology in construction

One of the biggest changes in the last 20 years has been the explosion of technology in the construction field. What was once majority hands-on, hard physical work is now opened up to a variety of expertise and workforce development opportunities. 

“The biggest shift is the growth in robotics, drones, and programming,” Holmes said. “You’ll always need that hands-on labor, but there is an additional piece now where kids who are into gaming or programming can find a great home in the field of construction.”

Workforce development opportunities through university outreach

The higher education market is just as vital to McCownGordon’s business and outreach as K-12. Business development managers like Kyle Kennedy work hand-in-hand with our market leader for higher education to: 

  • maintain the strong relationships we’re known for while expanding our clientele
  • stay engaged with our design partners
  • stay ahead of trends in higher education construction; keeping track of what kind of buildings universities are constructing and where they are focusing their budgets

For example, we help to facilitate a shift toward focusing on student health and wellness at universities. Our expertise allows us to build athletics facilities, flexible spaces to accommodate multiple purposes, laboratories and research facilities. 

“Things had been trending that way for the most part,” Kennedy said, “but it seems like now everyone has evaluated what is really important and where they want to focus, so everyone has ramped up specializing in these health and wellness areas.”

One thing that is not different about higher education construction for us is our dedication to building strong relationships before anything else. We’ve developed lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with universities and schools throughout the region. We act as a collaborative partner throughout the entire process of a construction project and beyond. 

We recently hosted some of these higher education clients for a panel to discuss the future trends in higher ed. The sudden shift into remote learning showed colleges and universities how quickly change can happen. Our panelists included:

  • Mauli Agrawal, Chancellor, University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Chancellor Douglas A. Girod, University of Kansas
  • Dr. Andrew W. Bowne, President, Johnson County Community College
  • Dr. Kimberly Beatty, Chancellor, Metropolitan Community College
  • Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, Ph.D., President, William Jewell College

Engaging higher education students

McCownGordon engages college students on a variety of levels. We establish at least one scholarship for students at every school where we perform work—there are more than 10 regional universities offering a McCownGordon scholarship. Student athletes receive support from us as well, from us sponsoring events like the MIAA conference to teaming up with the Commissioner’s Cup or hosting a tailgate party once each season. 

Coming full circle with workplace development opportunities

From elementary students to university students, we invest in the community and help open students’ eyes to a world of opportunities. One of those opportunities is our esteemed internship program, established in 2014. 

“While my main focus is providing development opportunities for our associates, I have overseen the formal internship program since 2014,” said Vice President of Talent Development Emily Brown. “Not only have we converted 62% of our interns into full-time roles at McCownGordon, this year we had more than 450 applicants for the internship program—we only have 28 internship positions!” The summer internship is so popular, it’s typically filled by October. 

The McCownGordon internship is considered a sought-after internship because it teaches in a holistic way. It’s really a team effort and there are many people on our team who have an opportunity to work with interns and help them with their professional development. Every associate on the team loves watching the career evolution of the interns who go on to join us in full-time positions. 

Part of what we will talk about specifically with internship is the ability to have that one-on-one mentorship with someone who is actually working in the field you are interested in. Someone who could be a long-term, awesome asset for you in your career. Each of our interns is partnered with a mentor, and we try to partner them with someone who is a former intern that we hired as a full-time associate. 

Mentors see their status as a badge of honor. After all, being selected for mentoring an intern means they’re trusted and held in high standings related to their career. No one can share in the experience as well as someone who has been through it all before. 

The best construction internship

The numbers don’t lie; our internship is an incredible opportunity for any college student looking to expand their understanding of the construction industry. It’s also the perfect foot in the door to end up as a full-time associate because we will have had an opportunity to review your attitude, abilities, and preferences. 

We believe there are three things that have led to the respect and attention our paid* internship has gained. Those things are culture, opportunities, and community

Culture: Welcoming, supportive, and diverse

We hear from candidates who visit McCownGordon’s office how welcoming it felt when they walked in. We stress the importance of a welcoming, supportive culture to all of our associates. Being employee-owned contributes to that culture, as everyone is bought-in and success for one equals success for all. That results in a workplace full of people who are genuinely happy to be there and excited about the challenges each day brings. It’s what makes us so personable with our clients!

Opportunities: Explore all your passions

Interns at McCownGordon get opportunities to explore their interests throughout the company. If a student in a project engineer internship is curious about estimating, we arrange for them to spend a day or two with the estimators. Nothing teaches like direct experience, and we want our interns to get everything they want out of the experience. 

Community: Learn and grow together

Most of the interns who come through McCownGordon are getting their construction degree and don’t necessarily come across many opportunities to learn about other aspects of a construction company. Every couple of weeks throughout the summer, one intern hosts the others for a get-together. They will share everything they’ve learned and how their particular department works so everyone is exposed to different types and phases of construction. 

*In addition to pay, we provide housing to students who live more than 45 miles from the office they’re working in.

How workforce development benefits our clients

McCownGordon Construction learned a long time ago that valuing the associates in your company first and foremost leads to better outcomes for your clients. Our team is motivated, educated, experienced, and supported to live their best life while being wholly invested in the success of the company. Of the interns who come through our program and are offered full-time positions, 90% accept. 

This leads to McCownGordon having the highest-quality entry-level associates; they’ve gone through the three month internship with our team, so they’re more thoroughly vetted than your typical entry-level associate. What project doesn’t benefit from someone who spent the last three months learning and training for their position?

Our positive environment and engaging internship program for construction develops a sense of camaraderie, drive, and dedication. Overall this creates a better working environment and better results on a construction project. 

Keeping our eye on DEI

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are cornerstones of the culture at McCownGordon Construction. It’s no different with regards to our internships. We actively recruit from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and, through virtual events, have now reached students from a broader range of schools across the country. We know how important diversity is in the workplace. Our associates from diverse populations offer a valuable and necessary perspective. 

Another aspect of shared success is an emphasis on hiring women associates. “When I graduated with my construction degree in 2000, there were 3 women,” Brown said. “For the last three years, our internship program has been 30 percent women. Seeing that has been really special for me.”

Discover a new path forward with McCownGordon

Workforce development, community outreach, and student engagement are not just keys to our success, but to yours. With a workforce entirely bought-in and experienced even from the entry level, our clients get the best outcome for their projects.

At McCownGordon, our team maintains a customer-focused mentality, allowing us to meet or exceed even your highest expectations. Dedicated to promoting integrity, performance and relationships, it’s our people and values that truly make the difference.

Our customers aren’t simply another project; they’re an extension of our team and community. Together, we don’t just build—we bring creative visions to life. From first thought to final nail, we deliver quality work to ensure our builds stand above the rest. 

We have three regional offices around the Midwest—Kansas City, Manhattan and Wichita in addition to our newest location in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Call us at 888-304-4929 or use our free online quote tool to start building today. 

Project Planning Tool