Every electrical contractor agrees good project managers are hard to find. The first place contractors usually search for high-promise candidates is among the ranks of their best foremen. In part 1 of this series, we covered hurdles on the path to this solution. In this second installment, we point out four potential rewards that a general foreman—or anyone else in the company—should consider in pondering a promotion to project manager.
Reward No. 1: It’s easier on you
SARGENT: As anyone moves upward through the ranks in the construction industry—from apprentice, to journeyman, to subforeman, to general foreman, and beyond—the physical demands at each step along the way drop off dramatically. All other factors being equal, project managers can extend their careers years longer than a typical general foreman might. Their job is easier on their body.
McCOY: There is a great book by Michael Crawford, “Shop Class as Soul Craft.” Crawford contends that the factory line of the industrial age removed the creative process from our workplace and replaced it with a series of tasks. I agree with Fred; it is difficult to maintain the physical strains of 40 years in the field. I also propose that the work of a manager can be exhilarating in terms of creative freedom to explore new concepts and educate oneself to the best ways of managing the enterprise and the job site, which brings us to our next point.
Reward No. 2: It offers a broader view of the industry
SARGENT: The construction phase of a project is only one component of a longer string of activities that stretch over a period of time that far exceeds the duration of the on-site building process. An electrical project manager is in a position to see more of the bigger picture that goes well beyond the scope of installation work. This broader perspective can serve as a launching platform in one’s personal evolution from builder to businessperson.
McCOY: Consider also that project management can expose you to many new technologies that might not be available on a typical site. Recent advances in automation systems, building performance, off-site construction and automation, to name a few, are not necessarily new to the industry but offer many ways to provide solutions for clients and the challenging world of construction. As I tell students, in the next 20 years, you will experience more changes to this industry than we have seen in the last 50. It is an exciting time to be managing that change.
Reward No. 3: It can lead to an assortment of expanded opportunities
SARGENT: The role of project manager provides most people with the potential to build their roster of business contacts, become acquainted with the operations of other companies and develop a reputation for certain accomplishments. The greatest value anyone can bring to an organization will always be based on the strength of their connections with individuals in other organizations. Serving as a project manager can open doors to do that.
McCOY: Speaking from the classroom perspective again, today’s students consider themselves consultants. This new role does not mean they will hop from company to company or job to job without loyalty to the organization or industry. One lesson of the recession has been that each individual needs to be prepared for change, and that requires them to contain value through gathering their own knowledge and experience. Our students collect knowledge and experience and expect organizations to value them for those attributes, as opposed to the position they fill.
Reward No. 4: It will always be in demand
SARGENT: Decades ago, the term “project management” would most likely be understood as a reference to construction work. Today it is readily associated with many fields. Notwithstanding, the skills and traits of a highly capable electrical project manager are eminently transferrable to a broad realm of business endeavors—and will always be in demand.
McCOY: Add to those skills the impending retirement of a majority of the management workforce, and you have a roadmap to job security and leverage for your job description. We also increasingly stress the need for you to develop strong, nontechnical skills in your management practice.
NECA offers online courses that provide practical training on the everyday responsibilities and tasks of electrical project managers. Take 50% off with code ECMagAug19 and learn more at www.necanet.org/PM.
About The Author
MCCOY is Beliveau professor in the Dept. of Building Construction, associate director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Contact him at [email protected].