by Jan Niehaus
Free, two-hour classes on business basics— contracts, legal, estimating, presentations, technology, etc.—draw dozens of small subcontractors to the LEED platinum-certified headquarters of Alberici, a gigantic St. Louis-based general contractor.
They meet 8 months a year, take off during the busy summer months and end the curriculum with a graduation ceremony in November.
Every trade is represented in the classes, from excavation and roofing to HVAC and electrical. Participants need not be MBE- or WBE-certified or union-affiliated.
Tradition of Training
Alberici, which is ranked #59 in Engineering News-Record’s “2013 list of Top 400 Contractors in U.S.,” launched Alberici University 15 years ago.
Ron Wiese, Alberici’s vice president of Estimating & Procurement, said, “The program was an unintended consequence of our own internal training. We just decided to open it up.”
“Presenting Yourself & Your Business,” the September class, was taught by Alan Richter, executive director of the Regional Union Construction Center (RUCC) .
One student, Esther Walker, PE, MBA, director of sales and project management for Patraba Electrical Systems, finds value in the AU classes, the exchanges among contractors in the classes, and the industry relationships she has established. Walker has been invited to present brown-bag seminars to Alberici’s Estimating Department.
Technical & Business Training
Walker’s other resources for no- and low-cost training include seminars, webinars, online courses and conferences hosted by:
- Associated General Contractors (AGC)
- Gateway Business Network
- St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Missouri Society of Engineers
- National Society of Black Engineers & Gateway Chapter
- National Black MBA Association
Some programs are free or almost. For example, breakfast at the Gateway Business Network’s monthly meetings costs $14, but the presentations by lawyers, accountants, bankers, etc. are complimentary.
Another AU participant, Tami Martens, CEO and founder of TechSmart Energy, a specialty contractor focused on improving building energy efficiency, said “I’ve made a lot of great contacts and learned a lot in these classes.”
As a member of Ameren Missouri’s Trade Ally Network, TechSmart receives free training on the utility’s product rebates. Martens identified these additional training resources:
- SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a service of SBA
American Subcontractors Association (ASA)
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), funded in part by DOD
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
- Online webinars by manufacturers, associations and consultants
Walker urges contractors: “Don’t just join and pay your dues. Go to meetings. Serve on committees. Get involved.”Tagged with tED