Protégé, Meet Your Mentor

Staff | September 28, 2010

Since its founding in Kansas City, Mo., in 1924, JE Dunn construction has recognized that long-term success is built upon enduring relationships and the fair, equitable treatment of individuals and businesses. JE Dunn invests substantially in its employee training to ensure its workforce is continually challenged and encouraged to develop, both personally and professionally. Going one step further, the organization has taken corporate responsibility for the recruitment and development of minorities and women within the construction industry.

The purpose is two-fold: to offer employment opportunities to qualified individuals and businesses often overlooked in the hiring process, and to grow long-lasting relationships where all parties concerned can benefit from each others' expertise and know-how.

From that philosophy, JE Dunn developed a Minority Contractors Business Development (MCBD) program in 2006. It involved matching 13 protégé firms with mentors. Protégés are selected through a process where they are required to submit a written application, be interviewed, and make a presentation to the program directors and the mentors. The mentors are a volunteer group comprised of Kansas City business professionals from various construction-related trades. The two-year program consists of monthly sessions held at either the company's Training Center or its Conference Center, depending on curriculum topic.

"With the building boom that Kansas City is experiencing, we have witnessed an obvious shortage of experienced minority and women-owned subcontractors," explained Marvin Carolina, director of diversity at JE Dunn. "Since we can't magically pull qualified subcontractors out of a hat overnight to fill the immediate need, JE Dunn designed a program focusing on business management skills. We felt that we could certainly lead the way in providing resources and training to assist these companies in developing businesses that have the potential to succeed."

The goal of MCBD is not to teach protégés their trades; rather, the goal is to utilize the knowledge and experience of mentors to guide, teach and hone basic business management skills, including oral and written communication, problem solving, contract documents and construction law, accounting and financials, planning and scheduling, accident prevention and loss control, productivity improvement, understanding and managing project costs, and finally, to manage the project.

Unlike typical mentoring programs, MCBD functions in a classroom environment where learning and experience sharing is paramount. Beyond that, JE Dunn plays an active role in working with the protégés in identifying and acquiring work opportunities throughout the Kansas City area.

"What we are striving to accomplish is the development of minority businesses in a fashion that will enhance their ability to pursue, and secure, construction projects in the future," states Carolina. "The responsible thing for us, as leaders in the Kansas City construction marketplace, is to take a proactive role in providing them with the skills necessary to succeed in the construction industry."

Mentor Paul Rodriquez, president of Rodriquez Mechanical, remarked, "Having the course and hands-on involvement that is provided in the JE Dunn curriculum is crucial for a small business startup."

The first MCBD class has completed their first year. Another group of protégés has been solicited and another class is scheduled to start in the fall of 2007. For more information about the Minority Contractors Business Development program, contact Marvin Carolina, at (816) 391-2506.