JM Electrical: Preparing The Next Generation of Innovators to Enter the Workforce
With high school and college seniors about to enter their last semesters, this is the right time for young people to think about what comes next. While many high school students have yet to decide if and how they will continue their education, older students will soon make the transition from school to work, and the chance to apply theories learned in the classroom to real-world assignments.
Despite my own background which included undergraduate and graduate-level studies, I have long known that a traditional college education is not the only path to a rewarding career. Some in the construction field follow their undergraduate studies with additional training to hone essential technical skills, while others take advantage of high-quality, tuition-free instruction offered through labor unions.
Though many still believe that earning a college diploma is the only way to obtain professional and financial success, data indicates that those with solid skills in the trades can earn as much as— and often more than— those with advanced degrees. With this in mind, I always encourage young people to choose the option that is best suited to their interests, talents, finances and learning styles.
To supplement formal education, internships, apprenticeships, and even volunteer work can shape the participants’ long-range career trajectory.
At JM Electrical, we believe in the inherent value of apprenticeships, not only to the individual but to our company and our industry. Since 2009, dozens of undergrads have taken part in JM Electrical’s co-op program, and these students have contributed to our business in ways that are real and measurable. These vital experiences allow burgeoning professionals to practice and refine skills, build confidence, and expand their networks. Apprenticeships, co-ops, and internships also help confirm whether someone is on the right track or if they are better suited to a different career track. To me, learning what you don’t like is as important as learning what you do like.
These lessons can be put to work when applying for jobs. Resumes and cover letters give potential employers a first impression of the candidates vying for a position. Campus-based career services offices can help students and alums craft materials that clearly and succinctly describe their background and highlight abilities and achievements. There are also a variety of no-cost online resources available that offer advice on formatting and organization, present eye-catching designs, and reinforce the importance of concise content. An effective cover letter and accompanying resume can set the stage for an initial interview.
I always learn a lot about people through the interview process, and if hired, during a new team member’s first days, weeks, and months with our company. From my perspective, who you are is as important as what you know. I consider the ways that individuals interact with their team members and with senior staff. Do they volunteer for assignments? Do they seek out mentors and support their peers? Do they demonstrate a positive attitude? Are they respectful, resourceful, and resilient? I also consider the “soft skills,” the ability to speak and write clearly. Further, I see those who exhibit creativity and critical thinking skills as real assets to our company. I am more interested in people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, who learn from mistakes, and who contribute to projects than those who looks great “on paper.”
Even before the pandemic, closing the skills gap and supporting workforce development programs in Greater Boston were among the most important priorities for the private sector. By fostering a smart, responsive employment pipeline that rewards hard work and initiative, every industry in our area —most especially the construction sector —can benefit.
As the next generation prepares to enter the workforce, it is incumbent on business leaders to value innovation and give young workers an opportunity to contribute to the field and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.
By Matthew Guarracino, Principal & CEO, JM Electrical, Inc.