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Springfield, MO

A Conversation With … Travis DeLong on Generation Next

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What is Generation Next?
Generation Next started about three years ago (by) a bunch of board members from the Springfield Contractors Association who realized the same people were volunteering throughout the year. They noticed those same people were getting older and not really being replaced by new people. They wondered where the younger generation was. Out of that, Generation Next was formed – a group of SCA members 40 years and younger looking to lead the SCA into the next generation.  

How has Generation Next evolved from that original concept?
Up until this point, it was focused on getting anybody in the construction industry involved in our events. We wanted to provide opportunities for young professionals and established people in the SCA to come together. Throughout this year, we’ve kind of changed our mission statement a bit. We’ve focused this year on civic projects, charitable donations and mentorship. We joined with Springfield Public Schools for a couple events – painted some computer labs one evening and 50 window frames another.

How will the group merge those two goals?
Where those two come together and really make a difference is still getting the SCA members involved. When we did the painting, we had SCA members and Missouri State [University] students. Everybody likes to do their civic duty, you just have to make it available. This brought together the older and younger and created that bond.

How is Generation Next bridging the gap?
How do you convince students it’s OK to not go to college and get a job doing things with your hands? It doesn’t matter how much you talk to the students, they go home and their parents are like, “No, you’re going to college.” I think convincing parents that construction is a viable industry is part of that gap.

Construction isn’t all manual labor anymore. How does technology fit in?
You can’t go into an office where AutoCAD isn’t being used. The hot topic is (building information modeling), which is 3-D modeling. There are some jobs that do benefit from college degrees. That takes awareness at the high school level. I think it boils down to a lack of communication. There is a lot of miscommunication between what people think and what is actually going on in the industry. Construction gets kind of a bad rap; people think it’s a last resort. Well, college didn’t work out, I guess I’ll work construction. And that is so far from the truth. Construction is a very viable industry and you can make $60,000 a year without going to college. Construction is one of the oldest industries in the world, and we are never going to stop building.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. construction industry added 19,000 jobs in November and had for three consecutive months. Is the industry closing the gap or is this a natural result of the recession rebound?
I think there is still a big gap and need for workers. The jobs may be there, but we need people to fill them. The industry has rebounded from the recession and we are realizing we don’t have the manpower to fill these jobs, so they are doing a better job of educating.  Every trade is seeing it from HVAC to window glazers to brick masons. It’s across the board shortage of labor. That is one of the things Generation Next has been asked to look into through our mentorship program. We’ve been asked to look into expanding that a little bit, down to the high school or maybe even junior high levels.

You’ve served as president in 2016 holding multiple new events, such as the Pro Talk series and Night at the Races. What was the group’s biggest accomplishment?
We held our biggest event ever. It was kind of dual purpose – to fund Generation Next so we can have all these events and we were able to give back to the SCA and those who have helped us. We held the first annual Generation Next Bass Bash. I had never been to a bass tournament, never ran a bass tournament and neither had anybody else in the group. It turned out to be a huge success. We had 56 boats sign up and even with terrible weather, we had 50 boats in the water to start. We gave away $4,450 in prize money and not only funded Generation Next for the whole year but donated to scholarship funds. We netted just over $10,000. The second annual event will be in late April.

Travis DeLong is an estimator with Prestressed Casting Co. He can be reached at travis@prestressedcasting.com.

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