U.S. Engineering Construction’s Sarabeth Gandara (Preconstruction Manager) and Kevin Stoddard (Director of Preconstruction) spoke at this year’s Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s (MCAA) GreatFutures Forum in Milwaukee. The GreatFutures Forum is an MCAA career development initiative that connects MCAA members with students for internships and employment. During this annual event, students from nearly 50 student chapters and MCAA member companies gather for three days of student-focused education sessions that highlight the mechanical contracting industry and offer opportunities for peer-to-peer relationship building and networking with potential employers.
Sarabeth continued her involvement in the Student Chapter Competition—a real-world student project challenge—providing this year’s competing teams with guidance on the estimating segment of the project, along with Justin Blackledge of The Waldinger Corporation. Student participants will work over the next several months to plan, develop, and execute on a project recently completed by a mechanical contractor. Sarabeth and other members of the MCAA Career Development Committee led students through a deep dive into competition topics, like surety, backlog, permits, and project team roles. Bonus: they even gave students some insight to judges’ “pet peeves” on project proposals.
“At the Competition Skills Session, we gave a quick rundown of what to consider when building an estimate,” Sarabeth noted. “We specifically focused on the difference between direct and indirect costs and how to report them in the estimate. Students selected 4 different stations on the various topics, so Justin and I gave the same 9-minute presentation 4 times. It was large-scale mechanical musical chairs.”
After feedback from student chapter presidents, the MCAA Career Development Committee assembled a panel at this year’s event to discuss sustainability in mechanical contracting. Kevin was a featured speaker on that panel, along with John Koontz of MCAA, Marie Patterson of California State University – Chico, and Michael Russo of Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. From their experience, panelists spoke about nationwide changes in mechanical contractors’ role on a project to meet energy regulations. They also discussed potential areas for the greatest impact in sustainability.
“It was very interesting to have the conversation in this setting,” Kevin explained, “because it was based around broad concepts in sustainability and energy usage in the built environment. We did not get into too many specifics but rather highlighted that careers in mechanical contracting closely relate to the sustainability initiatives that are driving our industry.”
The GreatFutures Forum is an invaluable program for our industry. U.S. Engineering is proud to be a part of introducing the next generation of mechanical contracting to the work we do and career path possibilities.