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$1.2B St. Pete contractor invests millions into training facility

Contracting services giant Power Design built a $3 million training facility for current and potential employees.


Nick Lopresto and Jay Stamper inside CAMP at Power Design.
Nick Lopresto and Jay Stamper inside CAMP at Power Design.
Photo by Mark Wemple
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After a national contractor headquartered in St. Petersburg passed $1 billion in revenue last year, it has turned its focus toward investing in the future. 

Power Design recently spent $3 million on a new training facility at its campus. The goal: create well-rounded employees and keep talent in the pipeline. While that's a goal many companies have, especially in labor-challenged construction, Power Design, one of the largest contractors on the west coast of Florida, is in a position to do something about it.

“We have always made a significant investment in training services and development programs for our employees,” Power Design’s Director of Learning and Development Stephanie Morge says, adding that the company invests $3.5 million a year toward training.

"We’ve always had best practices, we’ve always had training classrooms and evaluations," Morge says. "As we continue to expand on our campus, we wanted to take advantage of this new space that we had available to us."

Power Design's new 27,000-square-foot facility, called CAMP, contains seven spaces for training in addition to two designated training classrooms. (CAMP is not an acronym.)

The new building, which opened in May, is more than double the size of its predecessor; previously, the company housed its training in a 12,000-square-foot space.

“It needed to be expanded because of how much we’ve grown as a company,” Morge says. “We just recently hit $1 billion in revenue last year so as we continue to hit all these new milestones [and] enter new markets, one of the things that we needed to make sure reflected that was our development programs.”


‘Better than anybody else’

Power Design has close to 2,800 employees and nearly 4,000 subcontractor teams, according to Morge, who says all trade partners must go through CAMP for training. There, workers get hands-on experience honing their skills and also learn the best practices of the company.

The training facility spans the various trades the company incorporates.

“As a mechanical-electrical-plumbing-systems technologies company, we wanted to make sure that the space reflected not just what we do but how we do it,” Morge says.

Power Design's training creates "really well-rounded employees, particularly in the field, that can build buildings better than anybody else," Director of Learning and Development Stephanie Morge says.
Photo by Mark Wemple

Having all types of training under one roof is helping to create more skilled employees.

“What we’re seeing right now is really that siloed effect where ‘I just know electrical’ or “I just know mechanical,’” Morge says.

CAMP provides the opportunity to crosstrain and have “really well-rounded employees, particularly in the field, that can build buildings better than anybody else,” Morge says.

The facility also provides an area for assessing workers’ skills, which is critical to keeping the pipeline filled.

Evaluations are “one of the big components of what we do,” Morge says. 

Those who are not yet employees must be evaluated to qualify for a job, while employees looking to get promoted into field supervisory or other roles must undergo assessments too.

”Anybody that’s looking to become a superintendent or foreman or technician for Power Design has to go through evaluations,” Morge says.


Always hiring

Power Design, with $1.2 billion in revenue last year, is always on the lookout to add more employees.

The company hired 210 people in just the past 6 months, according to Morge. “We are constantly hiring,” she says.

To keep up with demand, Power Design is also actively hiring for 130 positions — and plans to add more.

“With the amount of new work we have been acquiring and will be in the near future,” Morge says, “we will be expanding our open positions.”

CAMP provides a way to onboard employees to ensure they are trained to Power Design standards, and the facility can also attract potential workers, Morge says. 

“This could be a young, soon-to-be high school graduate to a seasoned professional,” she says.

“If I’m an apprentice, for example, I’m going to be using the technical lab,” Morge says. “I’m going to be learning how to bend conduit and wire boxes but also go through the best practices displays and eventually evaluations.”

Other future employees may be experienced professionals looking for a company “that really truly cares about their growth and their development,” Morge says, and Power Design’s investment in training reflects that.

Evaluations are key to ensuring workers are prepared for the job site.
Photo by Mark Wemple

“Once they do their standard [training] program, we have a series of bootcamps and workshops for all our our operations employees to continue their onboarding at Power Design,” Morge says. “We’re continuously looking at ways to enhance that training. What other types of training can we do, how can we further develop our employees’ skills?”

Power Design also keeps tabs on where its current employees are and where they are needed.

“As interest rates rise — as we’re seeing now — work tends to slow down” in some markets, Morge says. “We always make it a point to relocate our employees if possible and really continue to provide those career opportunities.”


Expanded programs 

It may seem counterintuitive, but in a challenging economy, that is just when Power Design is looking to fill its talent pipeline.

“We’re in a ramp-up phase right now, which back in 2008 was the same approach that we took as well,” Morge says. “We actually expanded our training and development efforts back in 2008 when we saw that slowdown.”

In that slowdown and housing recession, Power Design invested millions of dollars into employee training instead of going through layoffs, according to Morge. Training that was developed in 2008 evolved into a best practices program now required of all employees. 

Power Design was “quite the anomaly, especially in construction, where we took that pause and we said, ‘OK. This is happening. How do we take advantage of that?’” Morge recalls. 

The company also seized the opportunity to make operational changes like switching its software to Oracle and launched an operations training program.

“That’s one of the innovative ways that Power Design always stays ahead,” Morge says. “We’re looking at the trends, we’re forecasting, and we’re really identifying and trying to be proactive [to] make sure that we are staying ahead of any downturns that we might see.”

 

author

Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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