Since its inception following Conexpo 2020, Crew Collaborative has remained focused on its mission of recruiting the next generation of construction professionals. The goal is to strengthen the blue-collar workforce and change the stigma surrounding careers in construction through education, conversation, events, and advocacy.
Co-founder and treasurer Alicia Brentzel has been there every step of the way with the nonprofit organization.
“Crew started as a women's initiative,” says Brentzel, president of Brex Enterprises and a member of the Under 40 in Construction Equipment Class of 2023. “Crew stands for ’Construction Retreat Empowering Women.’ At the show, it was great to be around women in in the industry, because there's not a ton of us. Banding together to support each other was great, but we left there with the thought of ’this is so much bigger than women. This needs to be an initiative we launch for everybody.’”
Nominations are open for the Under 40 in Construction Equipment Class of 2024. Click here to nominate.
Although the initial identified need for the organization was for women to support women in the industry, Brentzel says the more diverse the better.
“Sometimes it can feel lonely as a woman in the industry,” she says. “So, I’m glad that what started as a women's initiative translates into an overall initiative to get anybody into the trades and supported. We all think differently, so an organization with the more diversity of thought, the better.”
To accomplish its mission, Crew begins by bringing its message to a variety of audiences, from young students at public schools to those at trade schools.
“If you were to break it into phases, phase one would be exposing people to let them know that construction is here to stay. It's not going anywhere, and the need is higher than ever,” says Brentzel. “We work to get in front of trade school students. and the local community as well. We're really looking to ramp up our Touch-A-Truck events, for example to just let people know this is a legit opportunity for your future.”
Crew also makes it possible for young people to gain hands-on experience and have fun while doing it.
“We like to educate kids, but also a big part of it is making it fun,” says Brentzel. “Technology is the future. Who better to get involved than the kids using it right now? At the last trade school visit we did, we got a bunch of remote-control excavators and dozers, and the carpentry class there built us ramps and made a sandpit. We’re getting them accustomed to the idea that soon running equipment probably won’t be much different than running an RC vehicle.”
- The Ambassador Program, sponsored by Caterpillar, aims to train thought leaders who can not only spread the Crew message, but also mentor incoming workforce.
- FrameWork, sponsored by Case, is geared toward high school students, providing mentorship and resources to help guide them into careers in the trades
- Classroom Talks, sponsored by Toro, is focused on bringing construction professionals directly into middle schools and high schools.