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Women in Construction: Planning Your Post-Pandemic Career Path

If you’re a woman working in the post-pandemic world, construction isn’t a bad place to be. While there is still a wage gap between men and women, it’s less than in other industries, with women earning 99.1% of what their male counterparts make.

The pandemic hasn’t slowed things down, either. A survey of 700 women in construction in March found that 58% said they’re working about the same compared with before the pandemic, while nearly one-third (32%) said they’re working more, and only 1 in 10 reported working fewer hours. Meanwhile, 71% said opportunities are on the increase, while 28% said they were about the same, leaving just 1% to report they were declining.

This leaves women in construction with a leg up on women in other fields, such as retail and hospitality, who have been struggling to retain their jobs during the pandemic. Instead of scrambling to get back to where they were pre-COVID, many women in construction are riding the crest of a wave.

Opportunities Abound

Restaurant, retail, and travel industry closures hit women in those industries hard. Employment in February was down by 383,000 jobs compared with the year-earlier total in retail alone. Leisure and hospitality employment job losses were even worse, at 3.9 million.

Although many jobs in the latter sector are opening back up as travel and tourism increase, many displaced workers will see a chance to shift gears and find opportunities await in construction, where a March estimate identified a need for 200,000 skilled craft professionals. And these positions pay well, upwards of $66,000 for a carpenter, for example. To compare, a general contractor can make an average salary of $70,000 to $95,000 a year.

There’s room for growth, too: Women make up just 10.3% of the construction workforce, which means there’s both a challenge and an opportunity.

Stereotypes Persist

Many women may not even consider construction because of stereotypes that have kept trade industries male-dominated for some time. Media representations from Bob the Builder to Wreck it Ralph to Tim Allen’s Home Improvement are geared toward male audiences.

Women, meanwhile, have been dismissed as no longer “needed” in construction jobs.This is similar to what happened after World War II ended, with “homemaker” conventions resurfacing to replace Rosie the Riveter.

It’s still assumed by many that construction is a male industry. But that’s simply a false assumption, and it’s limiting both women and the companies that could be benefiting from their talents.

Challenging those stereotypes will be important moving forward in order to take advantage of opportunities that are opening up. A more diverse workforce increases the labor pool. It also boosts productivity and provides a greater variety of perspectives to promote innovation and better decision-making.

Technologies & Trends Emerge

From drones and artificial intelligence to 3D printing and modeling, construction technology is becoming more relevant by the day. As the industry as a whole embraces data as a driving factor in decision-making, it is becoming more obvious that the soft skills women bring to the table as effective communicators and team players improve both productivity and safety. That means, for women in tech, the emphasis on working smarter could help them get their foot in the proverbial door.

Similarly, emerging trends in construction will expand opportunities for women in tech to break into adjacent industries. For example, new directives designed to address the climate crisis have resulted in an industry-wide push to achieve net-zero energy in both new construction and retrofitting. As a result, subcontractors in heating, plumbing, electrical, and alternative energy (to name a few) will be looking for sustainability experts to help them “go green” and stay relevant.

Entrepreneurship is Rewarded

Self-employed construction workers are a force to be reckoned with. More than 23% of U.S. construction workers were self-employed in 2018, compared to 10% of the broader workforce.

As of 2016, more than one-third of carpenters (33.6%) were self-employed, nearly 42% of floor layers were, along with 38% of construction managers and 41.3% of construction and maintenance painters.

That means there’s plenty of opportunity to be your own boss under the right conditions. Of course, that takes understanding things like the need for various kinds of insurance, such as workers’ compensation (if you have employees), property and liability, and general liability.

It also means having enough capital and credit to make a go of it. If you’re thinking of going into business yourself, now is the time to get your finances in order so you’ll be in a position to invest in yourself and your company. As an added bonus, taking steps to build your credit can save you up to $11,460 per year in interest rates and fees on loans and credit cards.

## Alternatives are Available
If you have taken time off from your career, either due to the pandemic or personal reasons, you have options. Returnships encourage professionals who’ve taken a break from the workforce to get back in the game.

These paid internships allow companies and potential employees to get a feel for each other and provide training that can help in the long run, whether you wind up with that particular company or not. Companies like CDM Smith and Caterpillar are among those that offer or have offered returnships, often with a focus on women.

Opportunities in construction will continue to expand, but as stereotypes persist, it’s important for women to remain confident in what they have to offer, because it’s significant. Women can provide a broader and more diverse pool of labor and ideas that will serve the construction industry well in the years to come.

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Jessica Larson is a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. She creates online courses for students, and has started and run several other businesses through the years. Her goals are to support her family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for her two daughters, and to share what she has learned through The Solopreneur Journal.

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How to Repaint Construction Equipment

It’s tedious, time-consuming and often overlooked. A fresh paint job may not be on the top of your preventive maintenance priority list, but it’s a critical step to extend the life of your equipment.

Paint protects your equipment from harsh weather conditions, prevents rust and corrosion, maximizes resale value and ensures a professional image.

The process is simple, but even with the right tools, it can be painstaking. You can buy a sandblaster, pressure washer and paint gun to do the job yourself or have your local dealer do the refurbishing for you.

Here is the process for painting construction equipment:

1. Prepare the surfaces

The quality of the final paint job is all in the preparation. To start, remove all decals from the machine. A heat gun or adhesive remover and a scraper will make this process easier.

Next, manually or mechanically sand the machine to remove the old paint. Pay special attention to areas that have rust or corrosion. Use a wire brush or grinding attachment on deep pockmarks. And as always, wear personal protective equipment to prevent skin lesions, eye contamination or particle inhalation.

Finally, replace or repair any dented or damaged external parts. If you can’t find replacement parts for older machines, you can also patch the area with a fiberglass filler or polyester resin.

2. Clean and degrease

After the surface is prepared, thoroughly clean the machine. Use a pressure washer, washing detergent and degreasing agent to remove all dirt and contaminants. Any dirt or grease residue left on the machine will ruin paint adhesion, so washing the machine more than once may be necessary.

Make sure to comply with local environmental regulations for contaminated wash water disposal. Allowing wash water to enter the surface and groundwater reservoirs can result in hefty fines, jail time and expensive cleanup.

3. Preparing equipment for painting

Once the machine is smooth, clean and dry, the surface is ready for masking. Fancy supplies aren’t necessary for this step; masking tape, masking paper, cardboard and plastic will do the trick.

Remove any accessories, such as mirrors or mud flaps, that should not be painted. Tape off any parts or accessories, like door handles or chrome, that cannot be removed. Cover tires and tracks and windows with paper or plastic.

If you are painting indoors, protect the floor and surfaces in your shop with cardboard and plastic draping – overspray will happen. A proper ventilation system is also critical to remove any harmful paint fumes.

If you are painting outdoors, keep temperature and wind conditions in mind. Paint will not dry properly in cold temperatures, and high winds will result in dust, uneven coverage and excess overspray.

4. Paint the machine

Spraying paint will guarantee even coverage and a smoother finish than rolling or brushing.

Professional painters recommend using an HVLP (high-volume/low-pressure) spray gun set between 25-30 psi. Ideally, the temperature should be around 68°F to ensure proper paint viscosity and adhesion.

Always hold the gun perpendicular to the surface of the equipment. Maintain a constant distance of about 6 to 8 inches away from what you are spraying. Start with the edges and hard-to-reach areas before painting the larger flat areas, moving the gun at a steady rate of travel.

Apply a primer to areas where bare steel or filler is exposed. Allow the primer to dry for 24 hours before applying the base coat. Apply the paint in thin, even layers. Wait 15 to 20 minutes or until the paint is tacky to the touch before applying the next coat. As a rule of thumb, use two to three coats of paint to ensure adequate coverage and durability.

Take proper precautions to ventilate the space and protect your eyes, nose, mouth and skin from dangerous fumes and chemicals. A full-body paint suit, respirator mask and gloves are essential.  

5. Apply decals

Once the paint has dried for at least 24 hours, you can apply new decals to the machine.

The key to installing any decal and making it last is having a clean surface before you start. Wipe the area with rubbing alcohol to ensure proper adhesion. Position the decal on the machine with tape and mark the location where you intend to place it with a pencil. Carefully remove the backing and position the top corners on your pencil marks. Take a squeegee and slowly smooth the decal onto the machine, starting at the top and working your way to the bottom and edges, removing any air bubbles along the way.

Now that your machine looks close to new, you can earn top dollar for your trade-in or turn some heads on the next jobsite. 

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Deere: Split With Hitachi Allows It to Flex Technology Muscle

What was behind the surprising Deere-Hitachi excavator split announced in August? What will this mean for Deere customers of both brands?


RuccoloJohn Deereerhaps a better question is what it won’t mean, says Domenic Ruccolo, speaking to Equipment World about the split. Ruccolo, a Deere veteran, is the company’s new senior vice president of sales, marketing and product support, global construction equipment. He also serves as chief sales officer for the Wirtgen Group.

“From a customer-support standpoint, I think the best way to put it is that there will be no change,” Ruccolo says. Irrespective of brand, Deere dealers will continue to support everything they have sold over the years “indefinitely,” he says. 

“There’s no question that we had a very successful partnership with Hitachi throughout the Americas for more than 30 years,” Ruccolo says. But times have changed, and “it was the right time for both of us to make this change,” he says. “Where we are really going our separate ways is on the marketing and product support side.”

After Feb. 28th, Hitachi Construction Machinery Americas will take over distribution and sale of its excavators. Hitachi plans to manufacture all of its excavators in Japan and import them to the North and South American markets. All manufacturing plants in the joint venture will remain with Deere post-split. This includes its flagship manufacturing facility in Kernersville, North Carolina, as well as plants in Brazil and British Columbia.

That doesn’t mean all has ended between the two companies, however. “We’re going to continue to have a strong relationship with Hitachi for years to come through our continuing supply agreement with them,” Ruccolo says.

Hitachi plants in Japan, for instance, will still make its above 47-metric-ton models, the 670G and 870G, and its 190G wheeled excavator.

Technology centric

During the joint venture, Deere relied on Hitachi’s excavator technology, although Ruccolo points out that Deere has developed its own excavator models over the past 13 years that were sold in markets such as Australia, Southeast Asia and Russia. “The agreement gives us the flexibility to transition on a model-by-model basis to Deere technology,” Ruccolo says. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to control our own journey in excavators.”

Ruccolo also says this transition to Deere technology supports the company’s overall smart industrial strategy announced in 2020.

“Obviously when we have our own technology in excavators, it makes the deployment of them a lot easier for us,” he says. Deere can also apply technologies to excavators that it develops in other markets — notably agriculture and as the result of acquisitions such as autonomous driving start-up Bear Flag Robotics.

Dealer reaction

Ruccolo says the Hitachi split was not expected by dealers, “and there was a bit of a shock factor.”

Still, “there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of energy around what the future holds” on the dealer side, he says. “Once we had the opportunity to explain the transition and what the future holds I think generally dealers are quite excited about the future.” 

He also says that by now Deere dealers are already well-versed in Deere’s new smart investment strategy. “Customers are going to experience the same continuity and exceptional support that comes in the form of reliable access to parts, solutions and service,” he says.

Three years down the road?

If plans proceed as envisioned, three years from now contractors will look back on an uninterrupted customer experience, Ruccolo says. “We intend to be there every step of the way from a support standpoint for our customers and dealers,” he comments.

And will the Kernersville plant start to produce excavators beyond its current 13- to 47-metric-ton segment? Ruccolo declined to comment.

The Deere-designed and manufactured excavator line, however, will be in full transition. “We want to accelerate the development of what we feel is industry-leading technology and machinery,” he says. “We’re full steam ahead.”

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