Southway Builders’ Unusual Approach to Hiring is Paying Dividends

Ally D'Ovidio

Southway Builders, Inc., a Baltimore City-based general contractor, is taking a slightly unconventional approach in qualifying new hires on its Wyman House project. But more important than their approach, is that it is working.

Southway has temporarily hired 6 JumpStart graduates to participate in very basic labor tasks, such as moving furniture and job site clean-up. At each weekly project subcontract meeting, Southway’s superintendent tells all of the project subcontractors, to observe the JumpStart laborers. If any of the JumpStart graduates seem like people the subcontractors might want to hire, then they are encouraged to do so.

It may seem counterintuitive that Southway is hiring an employee with hopes that the same employee is a short-term hire for Southway, but the process stands to present huge benefits to our industry, the greater community, and those seeking meaningful employment. The purpose of this model is to see if the graduates’ abilities and work ethic align with Southway and its numerous subcontractors on the project, that are looking to hire long-term.

“This model benefits both the graduates and contractors. Once the students complete JumpStart, the next step is apprenticeship training. In order for them to start, they must be hired by a contractor as an apprentice,” said Kate McShane Director of Project JumpStart. “These graduates have an advantage because they can learn about the company and understand the jobsite before possibly getting hired.”

The subcoontractors on the job site get to see how the graduates work in the construction environment before considering them for employment. They see on a daily basis whether the JumpStart graduate has the work ethic that they seek in an employee. It is a simple early indicating trait that would suggest the prospective employee is a viable hiring candidate.

Currently, industry wide, there are more entry level trade positions available than there are viable prospects to fill the positions. There is a great need within the subcontracting community for eager learners that have the desire to apprentice within a trade and can enjoy the satisfaction of a meaningful career.

Through this model the JumpStart candidates get exposure to a broad array of subcontractors on any given project site. They have the opportunity to work with a community of subcontractors that are looking to hire quality candidates to train through apprenticeship. The subcontractors benefit from seeing an available pool of readily available apprentices they can hopefully train as lifelong employees.

Southway’s model also gives the JumpStart graduates the chance to gain construction experience and work on a site, which is particularly valuable because many graduates do not have much past construction work experience.

Two JumpStart candidates have already been hired through this model. Maurice Holmes has been hired by Ariosa & Company and will start his apprenticeship training this fall and Arthur Moyd was hired by Personal Electric.

“We are optimistic that this model will lead to many more graduates being hired, said McShane. “Project JumpStart appreciates that Southway has selected us to facilitate goals and use creativity in helping our graduates gain access to jobs in the trades.”