This primer is my gift to all my beloved Millennials. When someone is preparing to graduate from college or university with either a Construction Management degree or an Engineering degree in the Construction Industry, they often think that Project Management is the ultimate and only position and or career path. It’s the one I call, the Glory Path.

Organizational structures come in many forms. The one below was created by me to explain the Glory Path as well as the other, often ignored paths, but equally important to the success of construction projects.

First some definitions of the various acronyms. CEO is the Chief Executive Officer. He takes his direction from a Board of Directors or the Stockholders.

CFO is the Chief Financial Officer. The man in charge of the money. There are three things in business; can you make it, call you sell it, and can you manage the money. Best to get a good money manager.

CAO is Chief Administrative Officer. An acronym in charge of a bunch of other acronyms; HR, IT, QC, Safety, and Training.

COO is the Chief Operations Officer. This is where one can end up after many years of running work. He/She knows the nuts and bolts of the business.

CCO is the Chief Compliance Officer. Deals with the legal issues, plus insurance, and bonding.

CSO is the Chief Safety Officer, the most important on the chart as it is a money maker and is very often ignored or relegated to the back of the bus. The CSO keeps the most important asset, people; healthy, safe, and secure. They are risk adverse.

That’s the top of the structure. Everyone starts at the bottom as either a craftsperson or a field clerk or field engineer or project engineer. The Safety Delegate is someone that has experienced one of these starting positions.

The Glory Path. After graduating with your degree, hopefully you’ve interned at a construction company first, you can start as a Project or Field Engineer. The Project Engineer deals with submittals and RFIs (Requests For Information), while the Field Engineer is out at the project site. It would be wise to learn and master this position before being promoted to Assistant Project Manager (APM). Spend 3 to 4 years here before accepting the Project Manager (PM) position. PM deals with every aspect of the project from budgets and costs to schedule and risk management. A Sr. PM can do this at either multiple projects or a larger scale (>$100M) project. More years of experience and training in this position will prepare you to be an Operations Manager now called Project Executive (Px) these days. This is for large scale projects with upwards of 20 staff members. Can manage a cadre of projects or one very large program and is also tasked with finding and developing work (BD = Business Development). Once this step is mastered then you’re ready for COO and beyond executive levels. I would say 20-25 years before this step is reached.

The Superintending Path. People that like working outdoors, that do not like paperwork and like to deal with inspectors and craftspeople gravitate towards this path. You start as a laborer getting experience in the construction industry and a specialized craft. That’s the craftsperson. Someone that can use tools and materials to create a quality product. The best craftspeople usually become working foremen and then foremen running crews of craftspeople. After years of running small crews then you can take on the assistant superintendent role for say concrete or finishes or Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP). Now you are ready to be the project Superintendent. The Superintendent is the man in charge in the field of the day to day operations and should be looking ahead at least three weeks. Superintendents can also be specialized like the Asst Super before he becomes the General Superintendent managing multiple Supers. After doing this for many, many years on progressively larger and more complex projects then you can move up to Ops Manager and beyond s just like the PM, the Glory Path.

On the left side of my chart is the Quality Control Path. While Contractors Control Quality, Owners Assurance thus Quality Assurance (QA). Sometimes this title is erroneously mixed as QA/QC. The bottom rung is to start in the construction business as a Laborer and develop skills to become a Craftsperson. After mastering a trade or two then you can move up to Quality Control (QC) Technician. QC Techs deal with the inspections and testing of the various aspects of a project. After performing in this capacity then you can move up to QC Manager (QCM). The QCM position can also be reached by having an engineering degree. The QCM writes and enforces the QC Plan. And can manage the QC Techs and the QCMs of the various trades. The QCM is usually on one project while the Area QCM can be in charge of several QCMs and projects. Once the Area is grasped then it can grow to an entire region, ergo Regional QCM. After years of traveling the region then the RQCM can settle into a Corporate QC Manger or Director. Establishing QC Programs, Lessons Learned, Metrics, and Root Cause Analysis of QC failures.

The most unappreciated and undervalued path is the Safety Path or the Risk Management Path. I say this because most companies treat Safety Departments as a cost center and not the profit center that they really are by saving lives, preventing accidents and damage to property which all translate to the bottom line. It takes a caring person with lots of patience and charisma to take on this path. You can be anointed a Safety Delegate after some training (OSHA 10 hour at a minimum with an OSHA 30 preferred). Here you log observations of safety infractions besides performing another production related duty. Remember that it is the unsafe act that hurts people to the hazards. Hazards can be reduced and or mitigated. Then you can take on more serious safety related responsibilities and reduce the operations type. Some projects will require a full-time Safety Manager which is the next step. The more safety related training one can get the better because you don’t know what you don’t until you find out what you didn’t know. OSHA 500 is a must as the Safety Manager performs all the on-site safety and project orientations and other trainings. Once you have conquered the Safety Manager position at one project then you can move up to Area Safety Manager. Now you visit multiple projects in a given geographical area making observations. This will allow you to move up to Regional Safety Manager which much like the RQCM involves travel to a wider area. Then you can become the Corporate Safety Manager or Director. Many years later you will be the Chief Safety Officer.

I hope that I have enlightened my Millennials by showing them the options. Choose wisely. Be passionate about your choice and go for it!

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