The 365 Day Building Season – the Hidden World of Year-Round Construction

Tank, pipes, and stairs inside a multi-level industrial plant

It’s common thinking that much of the US construction season is at its high point right about now, midsummer. But there’s a hidden world of construction going on year-round, mostly indoors and in every market regardless of the calendar or thermometer readings. We spoke with Aerotek managers, recruiters and contractors to learn more about this year-round building season.

Four seasons of building

Josh Strickland is a senior account manager with Aerotek in Greensboro, NC and we asked him about this vibrant, yet mostly hidden world of construction.

“It’s booming in our market here in North Carolina and in a lot of markets across the US. In Greensboro area we have the textile industry, tobacco and, an hour away, the healthcare and scientific industries of Research Triangle. Many businesses are responding to environmental regulations regarding their HVAC or other airflow control systems. These become significant construction projects requiring a range of specialists — iron workers, fabricators, welders, pipe fitters and more.”

“Unlike much of the commercial construction you see outdoors, 90% of these kinds of big projects happen indoors. That’s why even here in North Carolina where we do get some pretty cold winters, these projects can happen year-round.”

Bigger jobs, better pay

We spoke with Sarah Mitchell, Josh’s colleague on the recruiting, and asked her about the type skilled contractors she’s recruiting to get the work done.

“So much of these projects require highly skilled pipe-fitters and welders, as they’re working on what’s called ‘high purity’ pipes. That means the pipes within these systems being built are usually carrying gasses that require special handling. For a lot of our clients, these projects are significant investments and carry a big price tag. This usually means the construction specialists, especially the managers and crew chiefs, are seeing increased compensation.”

Better call Lane

We asked Sarah and Josh how they find these unique managers to lead these construction teams.

“In a recent project we were searching for a seasoned manager who was skilled and experienced in working on these complex construction projects,” said Sarah. “Someone who understands working with these high-purity pipes and large, complex HVAC and air-handler systems. I spoke with one of our contacts and without hesitation he said, ‘you’d better call Lane.’ I did, and he was right. Lane Strickland turned out to be one of the best construction managers we’ve ever worked with.”

Lane Strickland, Construction Manager

Meet Lane Strickland

We’ve spoken with a lot of professionals for this ongoing series and Lane proved to be one of our most gracious people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. “Yes, Sarah called me out of the blue when I was driving up the interstate. I pulled over and we spoke, and the first thing I could tell was she was like one of the guys, if she doesn’t mind me saying. The second thing I realized was the contract she was offering was right up my alley. Next thing you know I’m leading this crew and we’re building some pretty cool stuff.”

Lane told us stories about his twenty-plus year career working as a pipe-fitter, welder and fabricator on everything from nuclear power plants to pharmaceutical manufacturing clean rooms. “I’ve been doing this kind of specialized construction work for a lot of years and managing crews for a good part of it. I love being able to keep people happy, first and foremost that means the customer. I realized a long time ago the best way to do that is to maintain a positive attitude among the people on my team. My job is to make every day a good day. Right now, my crew is relatively small, but I’ve had crews of twenty-five and thirty people. I try to make it habit to take them to breakfast or lunch on Fridays and say, ‘thank you, for what you’ve done this week.’ Experience taught me if you treat people right they will perform and deliver to their maximum potential on the job.”

More where they came from

We remained intrigued by this thriving world of specialized construction going on 12-months a year, mostly indoors. We wondered about the job opportunities this created and Lane told us that, “I know literally thousands of pipe-fitters, welders, fabricators in this area and there’s mostly plenty of work to keep us busy.”

We asked Sarah whether she and Josh found it difficult meeting the industry demand with high quality contractors. “We have our challenges, but like Lane says, there’s a pretty big network we can tap into.

Aerotek contract employee Freddie Lieb completes condenser tie in welds at cold storage facility.

Josh told us that, “We recently had a tough, immediate opening to fill in Boone, NC, a small college town. We needed a welder with superior skills and management experience. We tapped our network and one guy put us in touch with a man who seemed pretty amazing over the phone. We took a chance and he started immediately. Our instincts proved as strong as our network — within three days he was promoted to foreman on the project and was making $3 more an hour than he was when he started earlier that week.”

Know your people, know your industry

Lane said something insightful when we asked him about working with people and managing jobs. “You know, the hiring or HR industry isn’t one I naturally take to. But when I first spoke with Sarah, I could tell immediately she was down to earth. She was genuinely concerned about getting to know me. If I was ever going run a staffing business that’s the approach I’d take — you got to know your people.”

Josh Strickland agreed and added, “Yes, Lane gets it, and we share his view about people. We also think the same goes for a client’s industry. We couldn’t do what we do if we didn’t know their industry and their business inside out. My dad was in the HVAC industry for thirty years, mostly in the sales and servicing of chillers and boilers. So, I know this industry. That’s what it takes to do this job right — know the people, know the world they work in and bring them together.”

If you’d to learn more about the kinds of opportunities available in the construction and fabrication industry — indoors or out — we’d love to connect. Take a look at our current construction management openings or update your free Aerotek career account today.