Young Leaders Conquer Arizona


The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Young Leaders group has been around for 25 years now. They celebrated in fine fashion with a well-attended annual meeting in Chandler, Ariz.

Rock Products was once again honored to sponsor and present the Mark S. Walsh Award, which is given to a member who exemplifies leadership and commitment. This year it was presented to Joel Galassini, vice-president/general manager – aggregates for Cemex.

In my opinion, the Young Leaders group is one of the most important initiatives spearheaded by NSSGA. The future of the industry is only as good as the young people we bring in, train and put in the driver’s seat.

Bringing in the next generation of leaders is always a challenge. Why aren’t young people actively pursuing jobs in blue-collar occupations such as construction and aggregates? One reason is the distorted perception that white-collar jobs are more respectable than blue-collar jobs.

A survey by the Associated General Contractors of America found that “get your hands dirty” jobs have the highest labor shortages. Many young people would prefer to learn a trade or earn a college degree in order to pursue a more enticing profession in high tech or business.

The irony is, the aggregates industry needs high-tech minds and business acumen as well as hands-on labor. We need to do a better job of communicating that to the outside world.

The Foundation of Wall and Ceiling Industry, in its study “Attracting Young People into Construction Field Positions,” has these recommendations, which apply nicely to the aggregates industry.

  • Young people thrive on communication. They enjoy collaborating on teams. Mentoring programs will encourage them to stay on board.
  • What matters to a young person about work differs from older generations. Young people enjoy technology, and the construction industry is using more of it. Experts recommend appealing to young people’s interest in technology.
  • Company culture is important. Young people want jobs that come with the same relaxed fit as high-tech firms. To be appealing, construction firms need to create “good fit” cultures.
  • Develop new recruitment strategies. Long-term employment forecasts are positive, so industries will be competing to fill entry-level positions.
  • The construction industry needs to target the right group of young people for field positions – those out of high school but not in college. An older group attending two-year community college programs is an up-and-coming recruitment target.