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2017 Future Workforce Conference


12.6.2017 7:30AM - 5:00PM


UI Labs 1415 North Cherry Ave Chicago, IL 60642

The built world has a major workforce dilemma.

Here’s something exciting: According to PwC’s global construction forecast, the AEC industry is expected to grow by 85%, reaching $15.5 trillion by 2030.

That’s good, right? Yes, but: The increasing consumer demand runs starkly counter to a sharp decline in available talent.

An aging workforce, a lack of diversity, concerns about personal safety, a lack of understanding about how to attract millennials, and a reluctance to adopt technology are all contributing factors.

Nonetheless, the reality is that our emerging workforce is not meeting the evolving needs of the industry, and because of it, companies are consistently turning away projects. And thus, profits.

At the Future Workforce Conference, we’re featuring 20+ world experts in recruiting and HR in AEC/RE to talk about how to solve our industry’s workforce dilemma once and for all. We’ll feature specific front-line case studies of successful recruiting tactics from industry leaders, interactive breakout sessions to get to the ‘core’ of your workforce issues and speed networking to help you meet like-minded senior leaders who are exploring similar solutions.




7:00 am – 7:50 am


7:50 am – 8:20 am

Speed Networking

The difference between a typical industry event and a BuiltWorlds event? The quality of the people in the room. Speed networking is our way of connecting you with the other influencer’s in the room. We’ll show you the rules once you arrive!

8:20 am – 8:30 am

Opening Remarks

Matt Gray, Co-Founder, BuiltWorlds

8:30 am – 9:00 am

Opening Talk

Greg Sizemore, Vice President of EH&S and Workforce Development, ABC

During the talk, Greg will share the trends that he is seeing in the workforce and how high-performing companies are attracting and developing the talent.  He will look at the trends in the new types of roles that people are playing in AEC companies as well as initiatives to ensure that traditional labor needs are being met through training and continuing education on the job.  At the same time, he will touch on ways in which companies are utilizing new technologies to ensure a safe jobsite.

9:00 am – 9:40 am

Labor Shortage, Surplus, and Community Development Programs

Owen Washburn, Vice President, Global Philanthropy, JP Morgan Chase
Don Biernacki, Senior Vice President, Construction, Related Midwest
Moderator: Jay Snyder, Senior Consultant, FMI

As the economy goes through cycles, the demand for new construction rises and falls. With this demand comes a need for skilled workers.  In recent years, the demand has been so great that training programs have had a difficult time keeping up. At the same time, the concern exists that downturns will lead oversupply of labor and will result in people leaving the field. Moreover, there are many communities in Chicago that need reinvestment and are plagued by chronic underemployment. During this panel, we will explore the question of labor shortage and surplus from a wide range of AEC perspectives in hopes of better understanding how to better position your firm and ways in which companies can help support community development through employment and business development programs.

9:40 am – 10:10 am

Adapting To Cyclical Economic Conditions

Ahmad Hadavi, Clinical Professor and Associate Director, Master of Project Management Program, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University
Diane Zimmer, Project Executive, Leopardo Companies
Moderator: Walker Thisted, Producer, BuiltWorlds

The design, planning, and construction industries are susceptible to cyclical economic conditions that directly impact employment and labor market for engineers and construction managers. To improve employability and move up through organizations, engineers and project managers have pursued different options to increase their knowledge and current perspective on technology and management. These options include professional licensing, general management programs, specific professional programs, and certification programs. The different options and their advantages and disadvantages will be discussed in this panel.

10:10 am – 10:25 am

Break and Networking

10:25 am – 11:00 am

Professional Development and Continuing Education

Collete English Dixon, Executive Director, Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate
Andrew Balster, Executive Director, Archeworks
Zorica Nedovic-Budic, Professor of Spatial Planning and Technology / Department Head Urban Planning and Policy, UIC

As new technologies, approaches, and markets continue to evolve, it is vital that people working in any field stay informed and up to date in order to make the most impact contribution to their companies. It also essential to remain current on professional and safety certifications. Doing so can help employees remain engaged and excited about the field while also creating opportunities to get out of the office, meet their peers, and share best practices. During this panel, we will explore how different sectors of the AEC and Real Estate industries are approaching continuing education.

11:00 am – 11:35 am

Inclusion and Diversity Hiring Initiatives

Jennifer Suerth, Vice President – Technical Services, Pepper Construction
Aleisha Jaeger, LEED AP BDC, Construction Management, Kerry Group
Laura Leber, Design Phase Executive, Mortenson Construction
Moderator: Walker Thisted, Producer, BuiltWorlds

It is not only important to source a talented group of individuals, but to source a diverse group of individuals representing a range of backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences. Ensuring diversity of gender, race, and sexual orientation helps bring a range of perspectives to problems and helps companies work in a wide range of communities. Fostering more diverse workplaces, however, can be easier said than done. Entrenched ways of working and difficulty sourcing a diverse talent pool exist among the many challenges. During this panel, we will hear how those working for owners, contractors, and engineers approach diversity.

11:35 am – 12:00 am

Breakout and Networking

During this facilitated breakout session, we will ask audience members to share their preconceptions about the next generation of buildings and how those are aligned with or have changed as a result of through the morning presentations.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm


1:00 pm – 1:35 pm

New Technology For Training and Managing the Workforce

Jim Colvin, Founder, Serious Labs
Guy Skillett, Innovation Officer, Rhumbix
Jim Majerowicz, Training Manager, Plumbers Local 130 UA
Moderator: Walker Thisted, Producer, BuiltWorlds

As the demands to bring more people into the AEC workforce continues to rise, it is important to understand how new technology can help improve the training process both before an employee is hired and once working on a particular job. During this panel, we will explore online training course as well as the use of Augmented and Virtual Reality. We will also explore some of the new software that HR professionals are using to help manage the process.

1:35 pm – 2:10 pm

The Workplace: Design, Community, and Retention

Lynda Ward, Sr. Workplace Transition Strategist, Haworth
Eric Gannon, Principal, Gensler
Enza Parrella, Principal, Unispace
Moderator: Michael Schultz, Co-Founder & CEO, Coffee & Tea Bar Holdings, LLC

As attracting new talent becomes more competitive, it becomes increasingly important to explore ways of creating a positive working environment.  The design of the place in which work occurs can offer a particularly enticing incentive for new and existing employees. Open plans, recreational spaces, breakout rooms of varying size, and other amenities are all new options available to employees. At the same time, a new generation of employees is expressing a greater interest in living in dense urban areas rather than in the suburbs. These two trends come together to create new opportunities for companies to build new offices. Doing so is particularly important if the AEC company serves the commercial real estate market as their own office serves as a showroom for what they might accomplish for their clients. During this panel, we will explore these questions through a conversation with those working in furniture and office design as well as contractors working to deliver projects to clients.

2:10 pm – 2:45 pm

Inspiring the next generation of women in construction through STEM

Kristen Sylva, Construction Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk
Shelley Stern Grach, Director-Civic Engagement, Microsoft
Tonya Dittman, Pre-Construction Specialist, Miron Construction
Melissa Schulteis, AIA North Central States Regional Associate Director, Miron Construction Co., Inc.


2:45 pm – 2:50 pm


2:50 pm – 3:25 pm

Hiring the Next Generation: Sourcing and Building Your Talent Pipeline

Emily Kocher, Director of Recruiting, The Walsh Group
Brett Walsh, Vice President, Human Resources, Graycor
Chris Redpath, Managing Director and Team Leader, Clune Construction
Moderator: Ro Dziubla, Director of Business Development, TalentHitch

In order to build a successful company, address changing market demands, explore new areas of business and maintain existing ones, it is essential to source a strong pipeline of talent. HR professionals must be prepared to meet new demands for talent and ready to adapt to the changing nature of projects. During this panel, we will look at how some of the most innovative companies in Chicago have addressed these challenges.

3:25 pm – 4:00 pm

Apprenticeship, Mentoring Programs and Retention

Sarah Stigler, Chairperson, Chicago Women in the Trades
Heidi Ellsworth, National Roofing Partners
Joshua Davis, Executive Vice President, The Will Group
: Walker Thisted, Producer, BuiltWorlds

Beyond programs focused on continuing education and ongoing certification, mentoring programs are essential tools to help young hirers adapt to new roles and gain connections within the industry more broadly. They are an essential tool by which knowledge can be transferred from one generation to the next and provide a way of evaluating the success of a new employee on an ongoing and responsive basis to ensure that issues that might arise are addressed before they become a problem.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Networking and Reception

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