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Igniting Next Gen: How the AGC is Investing in the Next Generation of Construction Professionals

By Alliant Specialty

The Associated General Contractors (AGC) Education and Research Foundation is committed to supporting the future of the construction industry through a multitude of education programs and resources. Karen Caterino, Alliant, sat down with Darrell Gibson, Executive Director, AGC Education & Research Foundation, to discuss how the AGC and Alliant are investing in the next generation of construction professionals through its scholarship programs, and helping individuals reach their career goals.

Intro (00:00):
You're listening to a special episode of In The Public Eye Podcast, Igniting NextGen for careers and risk management, where we explore all the exciting career opportunities and possibilities within the insurance industry. Here is your host, Karen Caterino.

Karen Caterino (00:18):
Well, good day. This is Karen Caterino with Alliant Insurance Services and on our podcast series, Igniting NextGen in Careers and Risk Management Insurance. I am excited to have Darrell Gibson, the Executive Director of the Associated General Contractors Education and Research Foundation. Good morning, how are you, Darrell?

Darrell Gibson (00:39):
I am well, thank you, and trusting all is well, your way.

Karen Caterino (00:43):
Indeed, it is. So, tell us a little bit about the AGC’s Education Research Foundation. I see it's been in existence since 1970 and you've given away over 4,000 scholarships, totaling 10 million. That's very exciting. What is the purpose? And tell us a little bit about it.

Darrell Gibson (01:02):
We are governed by a 20-member volunteer board from the industry, and as the Executive Director, I'm responsible for the oversight of the operations of the foundation to include the frontline fundraising work, and then the programming that takes place, including our scholarship programs through Acknowledge. We've been in existence since about 1970, and we are specifically set up and aligned to support the construction industry and with the development of the foundation. When the membership thought it was warranted, they put a few cornerstones on what they were looking for the foundation to be able to provide for the industry, from technological support, educational and vocational expertise that the industry was looking for and wanted to be certain, there was some entity that could assist this membership with putting those activities into play when wanted and how we keep current in those facilities as well. So, for today, that's what we've been aligned to do.

And I've been with the foundation for just over a year now, and I've been thrilled to see how engaged our members are, including those members who are part of our board. They work intimately on our program and they're part of our interview process that we do with our students who award scholarships. They help us with some of our research, well, all of our research programming. And so, they are not just a board that sits around, they really get engaged, and I think it's because it really does hit their bottom line. They really take it to heart, their service for the foundation, because it comes back to benefit what they're trying to get done.

Karen Caterino (02:34):
Well, thanks Darrell, and so, the board members, assuming they're in the construction industry, as well, how are they going about finding candidates and evaluating for the scholarships that you award annually?

Darrell Gibson (02:47):
Yeah. We have multiple scholarships, our scholarship program as a whole encompasses undergraduate, graduate, and then we also have a scholarship program for workforce or craft and technical careers. And so, with that, we have three times in a year where we will open our scholarship portals to those three disciplines. And in any given year, we will attract about 1100 students across that spectrum who apply for one of those scholarship programs either, graduate, undergraduate board, the craft and technical careers, and we'll award on average about $450,000 - $500,000 in scholarships in any given year, about 120 - 130 or so students will receive AGC Education and Research Foundation Funding, and our board members are again, part of that review process. All this is done electronically, so, once we open our portal and announce it, our scholarships, we market to all of the schools and the craft programs that we're aware of and we get inquiries back and they go online and submit applications with letters of recommendation. All your typical measures that we do from a minimum of about 2.5 to the actively pursuing a career are in the construction industry, specifically, meaning construction relative to commercial construction. We don't do any home building funding for students. And so, our membership then is a part of reviewing and evaluating and actually interviewing students as they come through. And then we come up with those students that meet our criteria and that's how we award scholarships. And we do award scholarships to rising sophomores on. You have at least one semester of grades for you to apply to our scholarship program.

Karen Caterino (04:28):
Talk a bit about what are some of the careers that students that apply for the scholarships? What are they looking at in the construction industry? What are some of the opportunities they have and what some of these scholarships can help support?

Darrell Gibson (04:40):
What we found are students who are looking at our scholarship are looking at entry level roles in the construction industry, from construction management, to estimating, to a narrative those sorts of careers. And for those who are coming through our craft and technical career profiles are coming in looking to be your plumbers and your electricians and the like. And so that's how we fund those operations. And we do ask in our interview process, what are your overall career aspirations to help us define indeed, they are worthy of what we're trying to get them. Because we really want to be judicial with how we fund these students. Because we want them to really come into the profession. And so, we are very diligent in how we evaluate what their interests are.

Karen Caterino (05:17):
And so, speak a little bit about that in terms of the communities that you are serving, how are you reaching out to let them know about either, A: opportunity to work in construction. And B: the opportunity to apply for the scholarship in the time of year they would need to do so?

Darrell Gibson (05:33):
Well, we generally drive our application process through construction and engineering programs across the country, four-year programs in particular, we also do, as I mentioned, graduate programs, but we also drive our marketing to those two-year technical programs or apprenticeship programs. And that's how we identify our needs. We encourage them to take a look on our site and see what they can find about the construction industry may help them drive what they want to get done with regard to their potential professional pathways.

Karen Caterino (06:05):
And so, obviously, Alliant is a big supporter of the foundation, right? How do other entities become affiliated with AGC Education Research Foundation in ways that they can support your efforts?

Darrell Gibson (06:16):
I think first, let me pause and say, we are so appreciative and grateful for the support and the partnership, that Alliant provides. Alliant is actually is funding a scholarship here now with the foundation, and is also a very big supporter of a lot of other programs that take place here at the foundation. So, we are truly indebted to the partnership that Alliant has chosen to do with us. And so, we also have a number of other relationships similar to what Alliant is doing. And so, we look across the spectrum of the construction industry to include those general contractors, those service and supply entities, bonding companies, insurers across the spectrum of whatever, wherever there's engagement with construction industry. We consider those as opportunities for us to engage with the foundation. I personally reach out to those across the country based upon relationships we may have within our board or other or relationships in our agency for where we might target and ask people to get involved. And so, we do a great deal of relationship building based upon existing relationships.

Karen Caterino (07:12):
Yep, relationships definitely do matter. You're a busy person, so tell us a little about how the Alliant’s Build America Scholarship is directly helping people reach their career goals in construction. I know, just to pause for a moment, Alliant, we too have some of the same challenges that probably you do as well in terms of attracting next generation into careers in risk management insurance, in like construction. And so, a lot of what we do and what my podcast series is about also is just really educating the next generation about opportunities to work in both of our type of careers. So, talk a little bit more about how we can, and certainly either directly or, and, or indirectly, additionally, leverage not only dollars, but essentially resources that can help you and AGC reach your goals.

Darrell Gibson (08:01):
What Alliant and partners like Alliant do for AGC, is simply provide a broader voice for what the industry looks like and for the various opportunities that exist in and around the industry. And we welcome Alliant and Alliant type organizations who are involved with us to be a mouthpiece to talk about why you feel it's important to align with the foundation. Because what we're trying to do for the industry as a whole, is workforce development and attracting a profile of potential candidates to be involved in industry, is industry wide right now. And so, we take it among ourselves here at the foundation to be that portal and to be that link to the student who might be interested in the construction industry and provide them opportunity to talk with our members, our foundation board members and to AGC as a whole, because we are just the foundation, but we also have linkage just back to AGC as a whole, of course. And so, we work inside of AGC to find how best we can sell and offer the opportunity what the construction industry provides through what AGC as a whole provides as well.

Karen Caterino (09:04):
Yeah. Interestingly, just thinking about how a construction background, even if we work with our clients that have very large owner-controlled insurance programs and placing insurance for those programs. It's great when we have people working for us that have a construction background. So, there's some interesting synergies with even people that come through your scholastic program that may start in construction that may want to try insurance and vice versa. Right? So, kind of interesting, I think.

Darrell Gibson (09:35):
Here at the foundation, we've recently brought over our student chapter program where we actively go in and establish AGC student chapters on campuses around the country. And a part of that is so that students can begin early on to engage with AGC, understand what the industry can provide for them and in doing so get the full breadth of what the industry is, not just being on a work site, but just you alluded to the many portals of opportunities exist that that support the construction industry. And so, we try to have our students in those chapters, understand the full breadth of what the construction industry is as we go in and work with them as they align themselves. And of course, they find what they want to do, but we want to give them a bigger, broader perspective about what the industry is possible.

Karen Caterino (10:21):
Oh, that's great. So why don't you tell us a little bit about what inspires you to be in the role that you're in today and continues to inspire?

Darrell Gibson (10:29):
My role here is a continuation of what I've been doing for some 30 years. I have come to this industry, fundraising and nonprofits, working in higher ed fundraising and working for major research universities across the country. And actually, I spent some time over my career in a college of engineering and specifically I had a construction management program. So, that was some of my grounding came through that. So, what inspires me about the work that I do as a whole and specifically here at AGC is that it allows me to donor interest with the opportunities for them to meet their objectives, to what we do. I really want the opportunity where I marry the relationship with potential funding to see it as a win-win. Where Alliant sees it as merit and a benefit from working with AGC because Alliant sees what returns, or the students, or the relationship that AGC provides for them as a part of their business model. So, my objective is to do just that, be able to share that win-win.

Karen Caterino (11:22):
We appreciate that. We certainly do. And so just to maybe wrap this up, tell us a little about what you think is your best advice for someone starting a career in construction, what are some things they could be thinking about, skill sets that they may want to have and the various opportunities that might be available to them?

Darrell Gibson (11:43):
Circle back to what we do with our students chapter, as an example of how I try to advise them, how our team tries to work with those student chapters. We want them to see AGC as a resource. We want them to begin to directly engage with our members. We want them and encourage them to seek internships across the spectrum of the construction industry and give them as many opportunities and educational points so that they know and figure out pretty succinctly how they want to succeed in this industry, or not in this industry. We really want them to be exposed. And so, exposure is what I try to teach and preach to students that we engage with, that if you come into AGC at the student level, the student chapter level, you come to the convention, you have a specific program, you have a convention that allows students to be able to learn and engage at the level where they need to that point. And then when we have some wider activity, that convention, we encourage them to be involved with our membership as they, you have opportunity to receptions and dinners. And so, we invite students who participate in all those functions so they can really hear, feel, and touch what AGC is and what it can do for them.

Karen Caterino (12:42):
Well, it sounds wonderful. And I thank you so much for your time today. If a student is interested in the scholarship or learning more about the foundation, can you advise on how they can do that?

Darrell Gibson (12:52):
So, they can visit our website at

Karen Caterino (13:01):
Well. Great, thanks Darrell, and appreciate your time being on our podcast today. And we are so excited to continue the support of the AGC Education Research Foundation.

Outro (13:13):
Thank you for listening, for more information, visit us at


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