A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

TDIndustries Expands Construction Workforce by Recruiting Women for Skilled Craft Careers

Randee Herrin, Senior VP of Houston Construction at TDIndustries, Inc., dreamed of bringing more women into construction careers, and with help from the United Way and Houston-area business leaders, ten women recently completed a 12-week training program and were honored at a graduation event on May 10.  Florian Martin, business reporter for Houston Public Media, sat down with Herrin to ask her how this was accomplished.

Herrin said that one day when she was brainstorming ideas for solving the workforce shortage the company was facing, she realized that they would continue to face shortages as long as they recruited from only 50% of the population.  According to the Houston Public Media article, only about nine percent of construction workers in the United States are women.  Herrin wanted to change that, but she did not know how to get started and where to find women who are interested in careers in construction.

A friend showed Herrin an article by S & B Engineers and Constructors about their participation in the United Way’s THRIVE program to find 20 women to train as pipefitters.  Herrin called S & B and met with them to ask how they did it, and S & B put her in touch with United Way THRIVE’s Dorian Cockrell who is the Senior Manager of Workforce Development for THRIVE at United Way of Greater Houston.  She said THRIVE was happy to help:

“They were so excited that we came knocking on their door asking for help, so they banded around us and put together a great group of industry people to help us get where we needed to be to find these women to fill these roles.”

Martin asked about the backgrounds of the women who participated in the program and their reasons for deciding to try construction.  Herrin mentioned one woman who had gone to school for construction-related jobs, but who could not find a company to hire her because she is “different” – she is not a man.  That woman worked in retail jobs for years, but her passion was still in construction.  Herrin said “All she needed was a break – for someone to see that she had the qualities that were needed for this job and not overlook her potential.”  Herrin said that some of the other graduates came from construction-related industries and decided to apply for this opportunity when they saw TDIndustries’ advertisement for the THRIVE program.

Martin then asked about some of the misconceptions regarding construction careers.  Herrin said that she believes that those are all incorrect.  She said:

“You know, you are working outside in the elements from time to time, and so you do have to get used to the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter.  But we hire plumbers and pipefitters and sheet metal mechanics – they are all very highly skilled trades, and there is a great career in the trades.  The sky’s the limit!  We just need you to come in, see where your skill set is, and we can go from there.”

Harold MacDowell, CEO at TDIndustries, gave the closing remarks at the May 10 event.  He said:

“Forty percent of our senior leadership team … are women.  So my hope is that the new women who joined us today, when all of them look up inside TD Industries, I hope that they DON’T see a glass ceiling – what they see is opportunity.  And whenever you see a glass ceiling, I want you to help me smash it.”

Following the graduation, Mike Holland, COO at MAREK, remarked: “Huge shout out to TDIndustries, Inc. for the graduation event honoring the ladies who are completing a significant milestone. This is a great example of an industry leader showing the way forward in construction workforce development. Classy company, classy event!”

Founded in 1946 in Dallas, Texas, TDIndustries is a mechanical service, construction and facilities management company with offices in six Texas cities and one in Arizona.

You can listen to the 3½-minute interview through the audio link in the Houston Public Media article.