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Building 'curious' leaders

Major national contractor lays the foundation for future leadership one employee at a time with its ‘Career Start’ rotational training program.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 30, 2018
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National, multibillion-dollar construction giant Suffolk is beating back brain drain, one new hire at a time. 

The company is doing that — retaining young, local talent before they move out of the region or state — particularly well in Southwest Florida of late. Officials attribute the success mostly to its 11-year-old Career Start program, which works with college graduates largely from communities it serves.

Take Florida Gulf Coast University graduate Jack Hernandez. He recently completed the program and is now an estimator in Suffolk’s pre-construction department. Recent FGCU graduate Alex Brawley has joined the program and is in first rotation through March 2019. And Fellow FGCU graduate Chase Hilderbrand is beginning his second year in a project management rotation until December, when he will join Suffolk’s pre-construction department.

Two more Career Start participants who graduated from other schools are also starting their final phases of the program locally. One, University of Florida graduate Skyler Sadez, is in field rotation at Suffolk’s Tampa Hard Rock project before joining the pre-construction team. The Citadel graduate Blake Holmes, meanwhile, is beginning his second year in a local estimating rotation before completing his final round in field operations.

“Our development programs are outside-the-box for our industry, and we’ve realized over the years how absolutely critical they are to our success,” says Pete Tuffo, president and general manager of Suffolk’s Southeast region, in a statement. 

Suffolk, with a national headquarters in Boston, began the internal program in 2007 as a boot camp-style program for its “Build Smart” approach to construction management. To date, it has provided intensive training in diverse disciplines to 179 employees, moving participants through eight-month rotations each in preconstruction, project management and field operations. 

“Career Start is the foundation for our revolutionary approach to construction and our build smart philosophy,” says Josh Christensen, Suffolk COO for Florida’s Gulf Coast region, in a statement. “This is where we begin to develop and support the innovative, curious and forward-thinking construction professionals who will become leaders for our company.”



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