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By Maria Zate
August 20, 2018
When Alison Stanton was hired by Turner Construction Company 18 years ago, she knew very little about the construction industry and had no exposure to the field.
“Growing up, if someone had told me they worked as an engineer, I wouldn’t have had a clear idea on what they did,” she said.
Today, she’s determined to reach out to as many young people as she can — from preschool to college age, especially those in underserved areas — all to build awareness of the rewarding careers that exist in construction.
Stanton is the Regional Director of Community and Citizenship for the Boston office of Turner, one of the largest construction companies in the world. She is dedicated full-time to the mission of community outreach and engagement.
“The (Community and Citizenship) program is truly about opening doors and creating strong partnerships with those in the community surrounding our projects and beyond,” Stanton explained.
One of the ways Turner makes a difference is through its Youth Force 2020 program created back in 1989. Through Youth Force, Turner employees work with educators to introduce students to construction and further strengthen their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
“The program’s mission is to excite students of all ages about the variety of opportunities available within the construction industry and to get them to actually consider a career in engineering, architecture, design, or the trades,” Stanton explained.
Turner staff and project partners volunteer to teach and mentor students. They also provide job site tours. Students visit the same job site on a regular basis. This way, they can see the development of the project—the progression from design through construction. Youth Force also provides assistance in connecting students to the trades.
“We try to be a resource and provide guidance. When it comes to older students, in high school and up, we inform them about the application process for entering individual trades and the pre-apprenticeship programs that can prepare them better. If they’re interested in engineering or architecture, we encourage them to stay in school to get the degree needed to pursue those careers,” she said.
Beyond guidance, Turner provides scholarships to help students achieve their education goals. In 2017, the company distributed $48,600 in Youth Force scholarship funds.
The program works with a diverse group of men and women to help inspire students about the possibilities of working in the industry.
“Having a diverse and local workforce on our sites supports the talent pipeline. When kids see men and women who look like them on the job site, someone with whom they can identify, they can imagine a future for themselves, too,” Stanton said.
When she applied for her initial position at Turner in 2000, it was the first time she had ever considered a career in this male-dominated field.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Stanton’s first job was teaching at a preschool. One year later, she decided to pursue a very different career path. An administrative assistant position in Turner’s Interiors Division/Special Projects captured her attention. She applied and was hired.
Stanton’s previous experience as an educator and her enthusiasm for connecting with others and supporting them helped her to move into a coordinator role in the Community Affairs department three years later. She worked her way up to director, and after four years advanced to regional director for the department that was renamed Community and Citizenship.
In addition to its Youth Force 2020 program, Turner also partners with several nonprofits dedicated to preparing the next generation for construction careers and bridging the gaps to increase diversity.
Stanton is particularly passionate about encouraging more girls to pursue lucrative careers in the trades. According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women are paid about 19 percent less than men in all industries nationwide. However, the construction trades are different—the offered salaries for women are 95 percent of what men earn.
Massachusetts Girls in Trades is a group that coordinates with career technology education (CTE) schools to connect high school girls to resources. It mentors the girls to further inspire them to pursue skilled jobs in construction. Stanton is a member of the group’s steering committee, and Turner is involved in planning the group’s career fair each year.
In 2017, over 400 girls attended the event. They had an opportunity to meet with multiple tradeswomen and connect with a variety of trades.
“Being all together with so many other girls and women at the event really builds their confidence,” Stanton says. “It's truly empowering.”
Empowerment is the foundation of Stanton’s mission in Community and Citizenship at Turner.
“Building relationships and connecting people is key here,” explains Stanton. “Seeing our employees and external partners come together for the benefit of others and then getting to see individuals grow and succeed as a result of these collaborative efforts is what pushes me every day.”
Some heroes sink a winning shot at the buzzer or throw the touchdown pass to win the game with time running out. Others put their lives on the line in battle, fight fires or enforce the law. Other types of heroes are less prominent, but just as important. Whoever your hero, and whatever "hero" means to you, we want to hear about it.
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