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Mark Kessenich in June took over as the head of AGC of Greater Milwaukee, a trade group serving more than 300 employers, including 21 of the largest contractors, in the region. He joined AGC from Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership’s Big Step program, where he worked to recruit and train skilled workers. Kessenich has taken the helm of AGC at a time when the construction industry is dealing with uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kessenich recently spoke with BizTimes reporter Alex Zank about COVID-19, workforce development and D&I in the construction industry.
What are you excited about most in this new role?
“I’m really excited because I think AGC and its members are going to have a great impact on shaping the future of our city and our region, and it’s great to be in a position to lead that in that way.”
How does your workforce development background influence your role now?
“I think you’re going to see more out of AGC around youth programming and how we partner with the high schools, and how we start looking at internships and youth apprenticeship in a way that provides greater access for folks. Because while we’re talking a lot about skilled trades, we’re also talking about how we’re going to get more engineers, more architects and project managers. We have some relationships that we’ve established with (the Milwaukee School of Engineering), Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, but all this hinges on a strategy to cultivate the kind of workforce we need to be successful, productive, cutting edge. Our goal is to have the finest workforce from worksite to office that we can for our members.”
What are your thoughts on strengthening diversity and inclusion efforts in the industry?
“When we think about the diversity and inclusion issue, we may have to go bigger and we may have to go stronger. Some really great work has been done, some groundwork has been laid, but given the climate we’re in now, we’re even more hungry for the right reasons to bring in that set of opportunity to more students and young people who maybe just didn’t know construction was an option. So, when we look at our university chapters, we’re going to be looking at how we can help those chapters recruit students who are going to come from a wide range of backgrounds. Ultimately the goal is to develop and grow the next generation of owners in the long run, because part of this is about building a more diverse workforce. But we also want to build more diverse boardrooms, and more diverse leadership circles where we have more perspectives.”
How has COVID-19 impacted the construction industry?
“What this pandemic has really done is it’s thrown everything into a certain question as to how do we design and ultimately build our environment that is reflective of what we would do in a situation like this, where all of a sudden people need to social distance, and how do we construct an environment that is appealing and interactive, but at the same time can handle a health crisis like what we’re finding now?
“Sometimes it comes out in the, ‘Well, look at how well people are working from home.’ I still believe people are going to go to their offices. Much like (others), I actually enjoy going to my office. Not saying we won’t have to reconfigure the way we build our offices or commercial space, but I think the bigger question is how does this change the way we think about design and ultimately building our environment?”
Mark Kessenich Chief executive officer Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee 1243 N. 10th St., Suite 175, Milwaukee Employees: 8 agc-gm.org