Marketing team helps construction industry build diverse workforce
Associated General Contractors of Colorado will use a student-developed advertising campaign to recruit women and people of color.
During the first quarter of 2021, Denver’s crane count increased by 22% from last October, according to the latest Crane Index Report by construction-industry consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall. The city’s housing market is thriving, the report says, while infrastructure work, including the Interstate-70 expansion, provides incentives for more development in Denver.
Associated General Contractors of Colorado, an industry group providing area construction firms with advocacy, education, networking and workforce-development services, estimates that the state will need to add 45,000 construction workers by 2027 to keep up with that growth. To build a diverse workforce pipeline filling those jobs, AGC this spring partnered with Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Marketing to develop an inclusive advertising campaign.
“You want to work where you feel welcomed,” said Bryan Cook, AGC of Colorado Chapter operations director. “We think the more diverse you are, the better (a company is) as a united front.”
Students in MSU Denver’s Advertising Management class taught by Darrin Duber-Smith divided into teams to develop several multichannel advertising campaigns using target-market research. They then presented campaigns to Duber-Smith and AGC Colorado at the end of April. The winning campaign was “Build Your Career. Build Our Future,” developed by a student team made up of Kerry McCawley, Galeela Hill and Joshua Jackson. The storyboard shows a woman graduate at Commencement wearing a cap and gown with a degree that reads “Construction Management.” She then walks onto a construction site, where she trades her cap and gown for a hard hat and vest and her diploma for a clipboard.
The message conveyed by the campaign is that construction is a career that is right for you, Cook said. AGC’s Construction Education Foundation plans to develop the concept to utilize it in social-media outreach over the next few quarters.
“The research that the individual MSU Denver Marketing-student groups put into the ad-campaign challenge was very evident,” he said. “As someone that spends a lot of my time recruiting individuals into the industry, I learned a lot from the marketing challenge.”
The need to diversify the construction-industry workforce is acute, according to a recent AGC national report, “The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion in the Construction Industry.” It found that 63% of the industry’s workforce identified as white in 2017, while the current estimate is that 15 million people who identify as white will leave the U.S. labor force by 2030. It also found that in 2017 women made up 9.1% of construction-industry workers.
“There’s a huge push to break that stigma of women in construction,” Cook said. “We want to see as much diversity as possible. Students get to see a real issue we’re facing, but they get to dive in on the marketing side to move the needle.”
The partnership marked the first time the Advertising Management course had students work with an actual business, Duber-Smith said.
“It’s teach, learn, apply. To me, that’s the best form of learning,” he said. “It’s stressful because they’re working with real clients, but students liked it.”
Cook said he expects AGC of Colorado’s partnership with MSU Denver to grow. He also noted that this spring’s project isn’t just helping AGC build a marketing campaign that will diversify the construction-industry workforce; it’s also a vehicle for moving MSU Denver Marketing students into internships and careers in construction.
McCawley, a junior Media Relations and Public Affairs major on the winning team, said she saw the AGC of Colorado project as a great opportunity.
“This has given me great experience that I can put on my résumé that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t take this class,” she said. “It’s helping me build my communication skills, and I’m able to work with real-world people.”