Left to right: Greg Kelly, president & CEO, WSP USA; Bob Alger, president & CEO, Lane Industries, Inc.; Jean Vidal, president & CEO, Colas USA; Steve Morriss, president, Design and Consulting Services, Americas, AECOM; Richard Cavallaro, president & CEO, Skanska USA Civil. ARTBA Senior Vice President, Policy, Rich Juliano, at podium, moderated the panel.

By Mark Holan and Eileen Houlihan, ARTBA

Workforce recruitment and retention, and safety, are top concerns for the senior executives who opened ARTBA’s 2018 National Convention in apanel discussion on the “State of the Transportation Construction Industry.”

“There has to be culture change about how people think about the construction industry,” said new ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger, president & CEO at The Lane Construction Corp.

He addressed the importance of encouraging more young women and minorities to enter engineering and other industry-related programs in college, or seek careers in the skilled trades. If they are not in the pipeline, the industry will continue to have problems attracting them.

Richard Cavallaro, president & CEO of Skanska USA Civil, said it is “absolutely essential” to diversify the industry’s workforce. It’s not just the right human reason, he said; it also makes good business sense because it spurs more innovation.

Steve Morriss, president of Design and Consulting Services, Americas, at AECOM, said fostering a culture of workforce diversity is as essential as promoting safety.

Greg Kelly, president & CEO of WSP USA, noted that most workplace rules have been created by older, white men. Compensation packages and other aspects of the workplace need to reflect diversity and contemporary needs.

Younger workers are more focused on work-life balance than past generations, which were more willing to sacrifice family and personal time, he said.

The panelists agreed the transportation construction industry needs to do a better job of marketing itself, including the fact that it uses new technology extensively.

Focus on Safety

On the topic of safety, the executives also agreed they are on the same journey of getting to “zero” work zone deaths and lost time as their ultimate goal.

Jean Vidal, president & CEO of Colas, said his company continues to look to science for answers.

“We’re not at zero yet, but we are improved,” he said. “We recently won a job because of our safety record and our management team realized the importance of the issue even more.”

Alger said Lane is passionate about safety, but individuals also need to be compassionate about their coworkers.

“When you’re on a job site, look to your left and look to your right and make it your responsibility to make sure both those people and yourself go home at the end of the day,” Alger said.

WSP USA’s Kelly noted he was in attendance at the ARTBA launch of the Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals™ program in 2016. The personal stories told by co-chairmen Ross Myers, CEO & chairman of Allan Myers, Inc., and David Walls, president & CEO of Austin Industries, help humanize the program’s mission. 

Skanska’s Cavallaro may have put it best, noting, “This is work, it’s not war. People come to work, they should go home.”