The Diverse Talent of Tomorrow

“Diversity isn't a fad,” according to Dr. Charner Rodgers. What does the talent of tomorrow look like, and how can employers create workspaces that reflect that?
University students studying on campus

Rodgers believes that enhanced opportunities and increased representation of the field have drawn more people into the industry. Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Dr. Charner Rodgers comes from a line of generational builders. In her family, the first-born son takes over the family business—so what does it mean to be her father’s only child?

Rodgers, alongside many other women and minorities in the construction industry, are drawn to the profession because of passion. A passion that does not come easily for most minorities in the field.

Today’s workforce shortage has become “the most acute challenge facing the construction industry” according to Anirban Basu, chief economist, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Perhaps there’s a new way to resonate with potential talent—a way that can recruit diverse workers and help close this workforce development gap.

MAKE THE MOLD YOURSELF

Talents in the construction industry often fit into specific molds. Maya Sachdeva thinks it’s time for some out-of-the-box thinking.

“So many individuals have made a move in the last year,” says Sachdeva, vice president, Hall-Williams Executive Search. “Finding those linear trajectories is impossible, so we have to focus on individuals who might have a different lens.”

Sachdeva’s advice? Look for those who don’t fit the standard mold, but still have enough insight to fit the mold in a unique way. In short—be on the people’s side.

A method like that is where Dr. Rodgers finds success in her teaching methods.

Rodgers teaches using the lingo of the new generation—a surprising but welcomed approach by her students—to break down industry concepts in an understandable way. She implements teaching methods that aren’t simply “death by PowerPoint” or chalkboard writing.

“It’s new and refreshing to them,” she says in a podcast episode with the Housing Innovation Alliance. “The greatest feeling is seeing the lightbulb go off… I even ended up having some of the highest attendance rates—around 98%.”

Since teaching for almost 15 years, Rodgers has gained some insight on what future talent could—or should—look like.

THE DIVERSE FUTURE TALENT OF THE INDUSTRY

What draws people to the construction industry?

Rodgers believes that enhanced opportunities and increased representation of the field have drawn more people into the industry. In terms of diversity, Rodgers also suggests that the Black Lives Matter movement has helped people “wake up” about the amount of diversity in their own companies.

Even so, she doesn’t think diversity should be a fad. It should be a standard.

Rodgers has found that her students—even her white male students—grew up less segregated than in generations past. They have engaged with people from all walks of life, and want to be in work environments that reflect the diversity and inclusivity of their surroundings.

“The more that companies look like their surroundings, the more they’re able to attract more diverse people,” she says.

What can the uptick in industry attraction be attributed to?

The younger generations of students have an arsenal of career opportunities at their fingertips. For better or worse, Rodgers believes that some people will defiantly do what they want.

“Most times parents pay for college, so back in my day you kind of did what they wanted you to do,” she says. “These days, kids are looking at the TV and news and deciding for themselves what they want.”

What can we do as an industry to create a more inclusive workforce?

We’ve come a long way since people like Dr. Rodgers entered the workforce.

Back in her college days, Rodgers was the only woman and only person of color in her construction management classes. Today, she’s happy to be teaching to a variety of students from different backgrounds.

“Don’t think of diversity as a fad,” she says. “It should be something that we continuously work for.”

Rodgers believes that in today’s world, people have the chance to do what they really want. They just have to believe in themselves and do it.

About The Author

Quinn Purcell, UTOPIA Associate Editor

Quinn Purcell

Quinn Purcell is a graduate of Idaho State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, and an emphasis in Multiplatform Journalism. He specializes in video, photography, copywriting, graphic design, and even music production. He currently serves as Associate Editor for Utopia. When he's not working you can usually find Quinn at a local brewery, or watching true crime shows with his cat.

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