Primus Builders Landed a Model Employee, Trae Brown, Thanks to its Partnership with Cross Keys High

Workforce development is a much-discussed topic among construction industry leaders today. In a thriving economy, there’s a growing need for young workers to replace the older ones who are aging out of the industry.

Investing in relationships is a big key to successfully addressing the issue. Primus Builders, Inc., a Woodstock, Georgia-based provider of design-build services to the cold storage industry, has been proactive in that regard, forming partnerships with local colleges, trade schools and high schools to recruit young professionals with an aptitude for construction.

“The war for talent is real,” said Primus President Matt Hirsch. “It’s imperative that we find young, talented construction professionals who can grow with our business. There are a lot of opportunities for the right people.”

Added Michael Morris, Talent Ambassador at Primus: “High school students are an untapped pool of potential strong employees.” Morris reached out to Atlanta’s Cross Keys High School, and the relationship has been a win-win proposition for both organizations.

Cross Keys features a Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program and is part of CEFGA’s K12 Pipeline, which seeks to elevate and expand skilled trade programs statewide in Georgia public schools. The school’s staff includes a SkillsUSA advisor working with students in the Architecture and Construction Career Cluster.

Cross Keys sends students to the CEFGA CareerExpo and SkillsUSA State Championships, and Primus sponsored Cross Keys’ 2018 trip to the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. “Cross Keys sent a team of 32, the largest contingency from any high school in Georgia,” said Scherita Daniel, Assistant Principal for CTAE. The students performed extremely well, earning top honors in several categories.

One of those SkillsUSA participants was Trae Brown, who won the Occupational Health and Safety contest at the state level to qualify for the national competition in Lousville. Through Cross Keys’ relationship with Primus, he landed a job offer as a panel installer in the company’s Thermal Division and went to work right away on a 184,000-square-foot project in Macon, Georgia.

Panel installers are among the hardest-working people on the Primus team, installing insulated metal panels – which measure up to 58 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds – on Primus’s cold storage distribution facility projects.

“Their job is very physical, but it also requires attention to detail, an eye for safety and a head for numbers,” said Morris. “Even without all of the overtime that’s available in this climate, panel installers have the opportunity to make a very comfortable living.”

Trae said his CTAE studies and SkillsUSA experience prepared him well for a full-time technical career. “I earned my OSHA 30 certification, so I had a strong handle on safety before I started,” he said. “And I learned a lot about leadership and teamwork through SkillsUSA. It gave me more confidence. And I’m also more of a people person now. During SkillsUSA, you’re always interacting with people you don’t know, and that opens you up more.”

Trae’s education continues on the job with Primus. “From learning how to install metal insulated panels and other aspects of my job, to learning how to further interact with people, and learning how things should be done the right way, I learn a lot every day,” he said.

In addition to assignments in Atlanta and Macon, Trae’s job has taken him to job sites in Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey and Nebraska.

“One of things I really like about my job is getting to travel and see the country,” he said. “And I meet a lot of people. In construction you meet people who do other jobs and learn a lot about what they do. I was interested in construction when I was young, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast [after high school].”

Trae’s success is a great example of how partnerships between industry and academia can pay off. As Morris said, “We’re invested in finding the best-qualified talent and honing their skills, identifying the talent early and seeing how we can best support the next generation that’s entering the construction field.”

Added Cross Keys’ Daniel: “The great thing about our partnership is that I get to educate parents about career paths for their children that go beyond minimum wage. I get to tell them about companies like Primus that offer careers on the next level.”

LEARN MORE: Click here for information on the CEFGA K12 Pipeline, which includes more than 150 skilled trade construction and metals programs statewide.

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