The following was authored by Scott Braddock and originally published on Construction Citizen.
Every summer, MAREK celebrates employees with a graduation dinner where craft professionals are honored for reaching various milestones over the last year in the construction firm’s Workforce Development (WFD) Program. The dinner this past week at MAREK headquarters in Houston honored 22 helper trainees and their coaches, 5 mechanic trainees, 25 MAREK Certified Professionals, and 12 recently promoted foremen. A MAREK Certified Professional, or MCP, is someone who exemplifies quality production safely every day.
After several speeches of encouragement, each graduate stood at the front of the banquet alongside their coach as their career accomplishments were read aloud, drawing big applause.
CEO Stan Marek said his “biggest source of pride” is these graduates and all his employees across the states in which the company operates. “Most importantly, we’re building family,” Marek said. “We’re building a strong America.”
“Without your success, we have none,” said Chief Operating Officer Mike Holland, who told the trainees that they are the “secret sauce” in the company’s success. “It’s important that you know how important you are,” Holland said. “You are the lifeblood of MAREK.” Holland had a straightforward message for those taking the next steps in their careers: “Do great things and don’t be afraid to fail.”
Saied Alavi, Managing Director for the Houston division, talked at length about how MAREK has, over the years, put literally thousands of people to work in this city and elsewhere through a culture of respect for hard work. And while many men have bettered their careers through the training program, Alavi said there is also a deliberate effort at Marek to recruit women and put them to work in the skilled trades.
“We have a lot of good men here,” Alavi said, adding that women have made incredible contributions and will continue to do so.
National Associated Builders and Contractors Chairman George Nash – the featured speaker – told graduates to focus primarily on three key things. Legacy, safety, and gratitude should always be top of mind, Nash said.
When it comes to legacy, “I’m not talking about building a 20-story building. We all are doing that.” Instead, Nash said students need to ask themselves whether they’ll become coaches, teachers, and mentors.
“Are you going to go out in the community and work on a project and work on a Saturday for someone less fortunate?” Nash asked the graduates. He also suggested engagement with high school students in the area can go a long way toward fostering a respect for working in an industry that offers a career path.
The graduates seemed genuinely inspired by all the speakers, But perhaps the most moving words came from Keith McCray, who went through the training program two years ago and remains with MAREK today.
McCray’s advice to the graduates included taking advantage of all the certifications available at the company, never turning down overtime, never saying no to any opportunity even if it involves something new, soaking up all the knowledge possible from senior employees, maintaining open lines of communication with foremen, and focusing on being “the best version of yourself every single day.”
“When you wake up in the morning, you know, get out of bed and look in the mirror,” McCray said. “If you messed up yesterday, it’s always a new thing the next day.”
“Each step in the right direction is a good step,” McCray said.
“I like to look at Henry Ford’s quote. He said, ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ So, what that means is if you wake up in the morning and you say, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a bad day, going to feel like crap,’ that’s the day you’re going to have,” McCray said. “But if you wake up in the morning and say, ‘I messed up yesterday, but I’m going to keep on going today,’ then that’s what you are going to do.”
“All the certifications are here for you for a reason, you know, it’s at your leisure to take advantage of it,” McCray said. “It makes you a more valuable employee, and everybody wants to move up in the company,” he said. “Economics 101 is a class that tells you everything about the job, all the ins and outs of where your money is going if you want to move up and become a front-line leader or supervisor in this company, so I implore you to take advantage of all that.”
Never turning down overtime goes hand in hand with always accepting new opportunities, McCray said.
“That was one of the major things I learned when I first came to this company,” McCray said. “You want to be that dependable guy when the foreman walks up to you and tells you ‘Hey, do you want to work today?’ You don’t want to always have that excuse, ‘Oh my daughter is doing this,’ or, ‘Oh, I have to go do that.’”
“That guy that raises his hand every time and he steps up” is the one who will excel, McCray said. “I don’t even wait, I try to jump on and say, ‘Hey do you have any over time coming up?’ Because one, I need the money, I like money, and two, I want to be that guy that’s dependable, that the foreman knows is always going to work.”
“Take advantage of every opportunity, don’t be scared. Every opportunity is a good opportunity,” McCray said.