In a connected society where innovation drives changes and influencers come from all walks of life, it is essential that a firm’s workforce mirrors the communities in which it does business. A diverse and inclusive workforce understands the dynamics of the marketplace, can better prepare, anticipate and respond to those trends and changes, and can deliver innovative solutions.
Today, diversity encompasses both the internal focus on maintaining a culture that embraces and cultivates an inclusive workforce as well as developing partnerships with local, minority and woman-owned businesses that ultimately assure the broadest perspective on consumer needs and how then to deliver the best solutions to them.
Research shows the more diverse a team is, the more creative and innovative it is. Diversity in our industry doesn’t necessarily happen organically, however. If we want revolutionary thinking that leads to a future we haven’t even imagined yet, we must intentionally expand diversity in our organizations in an effort to bring the best to our communities.
Ten years ago, HNTB founded the national Partners Program, an effort to assist in the development of disadvantaged, women and minority owned, and small business enterprises to help them achieve their full potential. The program encompasses a structured, 12-month curriculum that has proven to secure contracting opportunities on large scale construction projects with major transportation agencies.
Through coaching and mentoring by HNTB leaders, the program facilitates communication, encourages development and provides opportunities to enhance all aspects of a successful business, including planning, project management, sales, marketing, operations and financial management.
- Collaborative Planning: Mentoring efforts and technical assistance are planned in partnership to better understand needs and tailor mentoring sessions around them
- Formal Mentoring: Developing relationships where larger firms mentor smaller firms and then developing those relationships to build knowledge and develop valuable skills for participants.
- Feedback: Providing participants with constructive and objective feedback and specific support.
- Team Building: Including participants in team activities, project milestone celebrations, service days and other events to engage with clients and team members.
- Business support: Providing tools and training to participating firms in the areas of contracting, invoicing, quality management and contract compliances.
When possible, Partners Program participants are included in the pursuit and contracting phases of programs to ensure inclusion through every phase. Because of HNTB’s commitment, this formalized program has helped small and disadvantaged businesses grow and thrive.
Small business partners aren’t the only ones helped when larger infrastructure firms develop and implement programs to help them succeed. These relationships cause ripple effects that also benefit participating transportation agencies and regions by expanding the talent pool of qualified firms who can deliver quality work as well as drive employment growth in the region.
HNTB hosts outreach events with the local business community to identify the markets and agencies where we work and invite those in attendance to meet 1:1 with our market leaders to establish relationships and share opportunities to collaborate. Over 100 firms have attended these sessions over the last two years in our Downtown Los Angeles Office.
Meet the Primes
In Los Angeles, HNTB participates in the Meet the Primes networking events that are co-hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Transportation Business Advisory Council. These events bring together small businesses to meet and get to know the prime contractors and learn how they can do business with primes on major infrastructure projects.
Along with other prime contractors, our project teams meet with hundreds of potential strategic subcontractor partners to conduct one-on-one interviews. This type of personalized outreach provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the firm’s capabilities in transportation planning, share our involvement in many of the region’s most complex infrastructure projects, and form strategic alliances for future contracting opportunities.
Industry and Educational Outreach
Across the country, HNTB engages in educational and community outreach programs designed to create awareness among young professionals and women about careers in engineering, architecture and planning. Regional office leaders work with local organizations and schools to educate and mentor the next generation of professionals. Sharing personal career experiences and highlighting the rich opportunities that exist for potential career paths create that spark of excitement and enthusiasm for young people as they plan for the future.
The Los Angeles Board of Public Works and HNTB recently completed the third annual SPARK LA Program for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s first all-girls secondary school – the Girls Academic Leadership Academy. SPARK LA helps support the school’s STEM curriculum – science, technology, engineering and math – which aims to attract more female students to pursue degrees and professions where females traditionally are underrepresented.
This year, approximately 25 students enrolled in the free after-school program, which covers topics such as bridge and airport design, water engineering, rail planning, and mobility and technology. The eight-week curriculum of interactive sessions related to infrastructure brings experts from agencies including LA Metro, Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Los Angeles, who serve as role models in the industry. Students create an end-of-year project incorporating their learning and present their work at a Los Angeles City Hall Board of Public Works meeting. I am pleased to see that this successful model program is now being replicated in other regions.
Planning for the Future
Infrastructure needs are evolving, offering an opportunity to create the workforce of tomorrow – young adults who are planning, designing, building and operating the built environment while earning good wages. We will lose this opportunity by maintain the status quo - we need to encourage more young people to address the future issues and challenges our industry faces.
Diversity and mentoring programs reduce barriers to education and training, makes our region’s workforce more inclusive, and benefits talented aspiring students and entrepreneurs in Southern California. As they build successful professional careers, we encourage them to take the opportunity to give back by serving as future mentors.
Wayne Feuerborn serves as president of the West Division for HNTB Corporation. He leads operations of a growing five-state division, including seven offices and nearly 500 employees. He oversees vital and complex infrastructure programs in growth markets, including rail/transit, tolling and aviation. He is based at the firm’s expanding California headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. For more information, visit hntb.com.
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