The Wilhelm Blog
Through insightful analysis and fostering a culture of communication, idea sharing and innovation, construction firms benefit from better methodologies and bottom-line savings when it comes to improving productivity.
Performing studies, collecting/analyzing data and planning changes are the easy aspects of productivity improvement according to Wilhelm’s dedicated Productivity Improvement Manager Robert Ramey. The challenge lies in changing states-of-mind and in convincing everyone not to overlook the small issues that oftentimes provide the most value in achieving results.
In just one year, F.A. Wilhelm Construction implemented small adjustments on four projects that equated to a $250,000 savings for clients. Identifying minor issues and making incremental changes not only saves money, it also makes the jobs of craftspeople easier, safer and, ultimately, more enjoyable.
Ramey focuses on improving workflows, project site processes and prefabrication solutions. For nearly a decade of experience, he leads innovative LEAN initiatives and is strictly committed to minimizing waste, reducing rework and implementing modern practices throughout the Wilhelm organization to reduce cost and increase productivity.
Demonstrating an early knack for process improvement and building things, Ramey attended Ball State University receiving a degree in construction management. He began his career as a Wilhelm intern on a large Indiana ethanol plant and, upon graduation, joined the firm permanently serving research and life sciences clients in a variety of industries. Ramey’s well rounded-knowledge and experiences led him to the helm of Wilhelm’s productivity initiatives to identify and remedy inefficiencies. By actively searching for leading indicators that signal upcoming issues, teams are able to take alternate actions that both alleviate inefficiencies at the project level and inform the organization for duplicative effects across multiple platforms.
Currently Ramey oversees project-specific prefabrication which helps control quality, mitigates trade-stacking, and removes field labor hours to shorten schedules on a project. Prefabrication also provides value enhancement solutions to deliver projects within stringent budget restrictions. Information collected and shared to inform practices and behaviors yields quantifiable savings to clients and their projects. Ramey has evaluated and refined project delivery for many of Wilhelm’s largest clients resulting in both strengthened processes and enhanced productivity for their teams.
Through implementation of efficient construction processes, Ramey’s work not only positively impacts Wilhelm’s clients, but also the industry as a whole – challenging them to work differently. He employs time and resources to develop and test methods of innovation and Lean Construction and shares his findings through Peer Groups and industry organizations.
“Once you can show someone a different viewpoint and then prove that it works – making their job easier and saving money – it tends to become infectious. Next thing you know, the process is applied to everything,” says Ramey.posted in
F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co., Inc., and Independent Colleges of Indiana teamed up to offer two middle- or high-school students a $5,000 scholarship each to use at any one of Indiana’s 31 private, nonprofit (ICI) colleges and universities at which they matriculate after graduation. The two winners are Anna Pierce, senior at Marian High School, and Drew Schultz, senior at Adams Central High School.
More than 1,000 students ages 13-19 entered to win the Wilhelm Construction 31 Answers Scholarships at the conclusion of ICI’s fall video campaign, 31 Answers to Your Questions About College. Each school day from mid-September through October, a new video answer was posted to www.indianacolleges31.org, along with English and Spanish transcriptions of the videos and links to additional resources.
To enter to win the scholarships, students were asked questions about what they learned from the campaign. Two winners were randomly selected from the pool of eligible entries.
“By watching the 31 Answers videos, I learned about staying on track, making sure that I am doing the things that I need to do to become successful, and preparing for college,” said Schultz.
The 31 Answers project was born out of conversations with high school guidance counselors who indicated a need for a one-stop resource for the most common questions students and their families have when thinking about college. ICI filled this need by creating a web portal with video answers by students and staff from its member colleges.
“31 Answers is a resource that high school guidance counselors, students, and parents have sought,” said Richard Ludwick, president and CEO of ICI. “We’re happy to provide easy-to-understand answers to sometimes hard questions. We’re in the business of meeting students’ needs by making college affordable and easy to navigate.”
The 31 Answers website and videos remain available as a resource for students and parents.
Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 31 private, nonprofit colleges and universities. ICI member institutions enroll some 100,000 students (approximately 17 percent of all undergraduates statewide) and annually produce 32 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in Indiana. Information about ICI is available at www.icindiana.org.posted in
The construction industry is not only building schools, hospitals, life-changing discovery laboratories and homes—it’s building great careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, the construction industry employed more than 5.3 million people in 2014 and is expected to add more than 550,000 new jobs by 2024. This massive growth – more than 10% in the next seven years – translates into tremendous opportunity for those entering the job market or looking to find a new, more rewarding career.
One of the fastest growing areas in the industry is the skilled trades, which accounts for more than 425,000 or 72 percent of the new jobs projected. However, all sectors of the industry are expected to grow promising great opportunities for almost anyone from entry level positions to professional level employment.
An Industry with Great Benefits
There are many benefits to working in the construction industry. According to the 2016 Aflac Workforces Report, the construction industry scored very well on employee satisfaction with health insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits. A remarkable 83 percent of those surveyed reported also being “extremely satisfied” with their jobs – a result that points to other types of benefits a job in construction has to offer:
- Getting paid while you learn
- The ability to live and work almost anywhere
- Opportunities to advance in your career quickly
Getting paid to learn
Apprenticeships and internships are plentiful in the construction industry offering a great way to earn while you learn. Internships allow you to explore different areas of the construction industry and earn money for college at the same time. Companies that offer internships – companies like F.A. Wilhelm Construction – often hire their interns as soon as they graduate.
You can also take a direct route to learning a trade through an apprenticeship. With an apprenticeship, you might spend as much as 80 percent of your time on the job, earning an income while being mentored by industry pros. And, when your apprenticeship is over, you will be certified in your trade and ready for a well-paying career.
Great jobs everywhere
While some regions of the country may grow faster than others, the projected growth in the construction industry isn’t limited to any one region – opportunity is everywhere. With new structures erected nation-wide, you can build a rewarding career in the construction industry almost anywhere.
Between the projected growth in the industry and the large numbers of retiring Baby Boomers, construction offers more opportunity for advancement than many other industries. In the next several years, positions will open up at all levels.
Companies today not only want to fill their open positions, but they also want to attract and retain the best and brightest. Successful builders recognize the importance of providing mentorship to promote career growth, and help workers to advance more quickly by increasing your skills, taking on more responsibility – all of which translates into a higher salary.
A closer look
Whether just starting out in a career or looking to make a change, a career in construction is worth a closer look. F.A. Wilhelm Construction, one of the Midwest’s largest employers of construction labor is a good place to start. See below a snapshot of the careers that F.A. Wilhelm Construction employees enjoy.
Senior Project Manager
Michael Greven, Senior Project Manager – “The soft skills are very important in project management. The key is to bring all of the players together to foster an environment where the client’s needs are met and where you move the process forward effectively.”
Megan Young, Marketing Coordinator – “It’s more than boots and hardhats. There’s a whole team behind what’s actually constructed. There’s a big movement to encourage people to think of their skills in construction from a professional standpoint”
Rachel Hobson, Risk Manager – “I touch all the different areas of our business from estimating to operations, accounting to IT. One of the best things about my job is that I get to see most everything.”
Brandon Keller, Project Engineer – “My job involves lots of reading and interpreting drawings. I do contract writing and management, and help process proposal submittals. I also answer requests for information and subcontractor questions and work to ensure that materials are procured and on site to meet the project schedule.”
Virtual Design Construction Manager
Ryan Pearcy, Virtual Design Construction Manager – “There is never a dull moment when working in virtual design and construction (VDC) as it can be applied to virtually every phase of the construction process, whether it be marketing, business development, preconstruction, operations, closeout, or even post-construction. With technology advancing daily, I enjoy not only looking at what’s on the horizon as it relates to VDC but also actively looking for opportunities where we can help other associates in their daily tasks and challenges.”
Sue Booth, Administrative Assistant said in her job, tasks can be routine, but the work is never boring, “You do one job and then you move on to another.” She said the ability to multitask is a must. Computer skills are also important as is flexibility, “You have to be willing to learn as you go because technology is always changing.”
Mary Minor, Wilhelm Safety Coordinator, said a big part of her job is to compare different sets of safety rules and regulations to make sure they are all met on every job. These include complex federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, Wilhelm’s company rules for safety and those of each client – “My job is to make sure everyone goes home the same way they came in every day.”
Kevin Peterson, Superintendent for F.A. Wilhelm Construction, said in addition to having good computer skills, he has to stay up-to-date on all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and guidelines as well as local building codes for every project.
Jay Trauring, Preconstruction Manager for F.A. Wilhelm said his job requires fast thinking and flexibility. “We have to change gears often because we have a lot of jobs going on at the same time. That’s a good thing because you get to see a lot of different aspects of a project. But, you also have to be able to organize your time well.” Trauring said written and verbal communications skills are also important in his job.
Brittney Turner, Wilhelm Controller – “As a controller, I enjoy a broad spectrum of accounting work, including accounts receivables, accounts payable and payroll.” She said her work also intersects with some of the legal areas of the business such as contracting and sales taxes, which makes it even more interesting. “Whether you’re interested in the trades, accounting, marketing, or engineering – there’s something for everyone with a company the size of Wilhelm.”posted in
The skyline is changing in Louisville, Kentucky. What will soon be the third tallest building in the city is taking shape on the old water company block at Third and Jefferson Streets in downtown Louisville.
The new 30-story Omni Hotel & Residences, which is located just one block from the city’s convention center, reflects an ongoing and dynamic transformation of Louisville’s downtown area.
In addition to more than 600 guest rooms and suites, the Omni will also add 70,000 square feet of meeting and event space, topped by 226 apartments and a rooftop pool complete with its own bar and grill. An art gallery will grace the hotel lobby. Those seeking livelier entertainment options will find them in the hotel’s Speakeasy and bowling alley. A 2,000 square foot grocery on the first floor will be open to Hotel Guests, Apartment Residents, and the Public.
Omni Louisville Hotel & Residences project broke ground in January 2016. F.A. Wilhelm Construction is performing the concrete work for the project in partnership with Brasfield and Gorrie.
Tyler Blank, Wilhelm’s preconstruction manager for the Omni Hotel project, said Louisville is keeping Wilhelm pretty busy these days. He said Wilhelm crews finished constructing the new Speed Art Museum and last summer, they finished work on renovating the Gene Snyder Courthouse. They are also working on a large utility project to help the city more effectively manage its storm water.
Right now, Wilhelm is hard at work at the Omni Hotel site pouring the 16th floor. The Omni is scheduled to open in Spring 2018.posted in
In a matter of days, Cummins will celebrate the grand opening of its new global distribution headquarters in Indianapolis. A marriage of innovative architectural and landscape design, Cummins has transformed an entire city block from a parking lot to a sustainable building and public greenspace where the former Market Square Arena once stood. The project is a testament to the creativity of an exceptional owner, designer and construction team working together towards a shared vision – creating a space that inspires.
The nine-story office building and public greenspace was designed by Deborah Berke Partners and RATIO architects. F.A. Wilhelm Construction was hired to provide construction management for the project, including construction of the building, the parking garage and to build out the green spaces that now cover more than an acre of the site.
From the transparent façade seamlessly integrating into the skyline to the welcoming plaza beckoning visitors, the entire campus is built to connect – to its environment, to its neighbors, and to the fabric of the Circle City. Both inside and out, warm and inviting spaces showcase innovation, creativity and community – fully reflecting Cummins’ mission of “everything we do leads to a cleaner, healthier (and) safer environment.”
Michael Greven, Senior Project Manager at Wilhelm, explained that the success of the project was a direct result of how well everyone worked together throughout the process; especially as continual design changes occurred throughout construction.
Doug May, Wilhelm’s Project Superintendent, on the project explained that the design and coordination of the highly integrated electrical, AV, lighting and data systems required extensive coordination and several meetings.
Preconstruction efforts required detailed estimates allowing the project team to constantly keep the owner abreast of their overall budget status. With the design coordination additions that took place after the contracts were awarded it would have been very difficult for the project team to assure the owner the project would be on budget if it were not for the detailed preconstruction estimate.
Both Greven and May are extremely proud of how the project turned out. “It’s a beautiful piece of architecture – one that can set the tone for what future office space should look like,” Greven said.
On January 5, Cummins will celebrate the grand opening of its downtown Indianapolis Distribution Headquarters – a building and campus whose innovative design combined with the creative approach to their construction has changed the landscape and will usher in a new era of sustainability in downtown Indianapolis.posted in
When most people think of a career in construction, they envision well-worn tool belts, steel-toed boots, and extended tape measures. While these images do readily align with construction activities, construction itself begins long before workers arrive on site and heavy equipment rolls up. There’s many other sides to the construction industry that most don’t see – sides filled with tremendous opportunity for people with a variety of skills and interests.
April Parsley, Vice President of Corporate Marketing for F.A. Wilhelm Construction, said that one of the largest drivers adding new roles to the construction industry is technology. “As a result of new automation, programs and methodologies evolving the way buildings come together, new skills sets are needed to meet rising demands,” Parsley said. “In addition, the need for ever more sustainable buildings and building practices is generating great demand for creative innovation.
The building industry is well known for employing trade-skilled laborers. What is lesser known is that it also employs graphic designers, software developers, modelers, artisans, engineers, productivity experts, and marketers. There are many opportunities for people in professional and managerial roles in areas such as construction management, operations, accounting and business development. Parsley noted that companies are always looking for people interested in quality assurance and safety management, as well as LEAN and productivity improvement management which involves evaluating processes and building better efficiencies into them.
Today’s construction environment has something to offer everyone. From team collaboration, to skill building, to good pay, to travel opportunities, to longevity of work, building buildings is akin to building a career. Whether individuals are recent graduates, still in college, or looking to change direction, this “learn as you go” industry is a good place to start, and there are many avenues in including internships, entry-level positions, apprenticeships, traineeships, higher education programs and work experience.
In addition to being professionally rewarding, construction careers can be personally rewarding as well. When individuals connect with the purpose of what is being built and how lives are positively impacted by the project, it promotes a true sense of accomplishment. Parsley described the feeling this way: “It’s kind of like the joy you feel when you drive by the old house where your best memories were made. When you drive by a new hospital or research facility that you helped build – a place where the community gathers to heal and care for each other – it fills your heart.”
Parsley wants to encourage more people to explore careers in the construction industry. She, like other leaders in her industry, knows that with a rapidly aging workforce, with the skills the industry needs is going to become much more difficult over the next ten years.
Wilhelm is already working to fill this need with proactive recruiting and partnering with high schools, colleges, and other organizations to help students learn about and become more engaged in the construction industry in conjunction with their academic pursuits.
Phil Kenney, Wilhelm’s President said that it’s not enough to just get new people into the industry – it’s also important to keep them. “We need to think about retention and what we can do to help them succeed,” Kenney said. He emphasized the need for executive-level professionals in the industry to work with people in the early stages of their careers to provide mentoring, “showing them the ropes.”
People entering the construction industry can expect longevity in their career. According to Parsley, “There’s never going to be an end to people needing spaces to do what they do. While construction will evolve the way work is done, there will always be work to do.”
Indianapolis is now home to SAM – one of the newest automation technology drivers for the construction industry. F.A. Wilhelm is the first construction manager in the world to own SAM, otherwise known as a semi-automated mason. Currently hard at work on the Pacers Training Facility project in Downtown Indy, SAM averages more than 2,000 bricks laid per day – greatly increasing efficiency on each project.
Construction Robotics (CR) in New York is the founder and creator of SAM100 and introduced the robot to its first jobsite in 2014. After visiting CR’s New York headquarters, Wilhelm Masonry Operations Manager, Mike Berrisford instantly envisioned its potential. A short time later, SAM is hard at work at Wilhelm.
“SAM is a good addition to the Wilhelm team,” said Berrisford. “We have the right work in the pipeline to maximize its productivity.”
The average mason lays 350-400 modular bricks in a work day; SAM is averaging more than 2,000 bricks per day making the jobsite two and a half times more efficient than using manual labor alone. SAM’s main brick conveyor holds around 22 modular bricks and can place up to a 12-pound utility brick. Two smaller conveyors simultaneously hold cut brick and/or smaller end pieces to be placed intermittently.
According to Berrisford, Wilhelm’s team broke the record for the amount of bricks the robot could lay. The original record held was 2,770 bricks placed in an 11-hour work day. Friday, November 18th, SAM laid 3,000 bricks in a nine and one-half hour work day on the job for Wilhelm.
Two SAM Certified Masons, Doug Padrick and Nick Smith, operate the automated mason, initially with the assistance of a CR field technician and engineer. “My 23 years of experience as a bricklayer helped me ask the right questions to the [Construction Robotics] technician while he was here,” Smith said. “We bounced ideas off of each other to help the process run smoother.”
Padrick and Smith traveled to CR’s headquarters for three days to train with SAM. During instruction, they learned how to use the mapping software telling SAM where to lay each individual brick on the wall. Part of Padrick’s and Smith’s responsibilities are drawing the map and importing it into their build tool used by the tablet PC running the machine. Wireless tablet technology allows Padrick and Smith to troubleshoot on the spot and keep a real-time view of each brick laid. Working with CR’s field technician and engineer on site gaining additional hands-on experience eventually allows CR employees to completely turn over the process to the masons.
“The hands-on training one-on-one with SAM really helped me understand and learn how to use it,” said Padrick. “There’s a new challenge every day.”
SAM is a self-contained system with air and electricity on board to run the machine. Vaporized propane fuels the machine’s generator which produces electricity to run the robot. An air conditioner housed in the cabinet of SAM cools the motherboard while in operation. A laser, in conjunction with the mapping software, designate the placement for each brick adjusting for field measurements taken by the team. Each numbered brick in the software Padrick and Smith use accounts for any windows and any other design considerations on the wall. Digital designs are realized with robotic placement of bricks.
“The laser is like using a mason line, it’s the guide for SAM laying the brick,” said Smith. “We are still learning the ins and outs of it, and there is constant communication between our team and Construction Robotics to keep SAM running efficiently. Their IT is great.”
With the help of our in-house steel fabrication shop and Poynter’s (a Wilhelm affiliated company) sheet metal fabrication shop, Wilhelm was able to fabricate the track system needed and begin the project one month ahead of the original schedule. CR originally designed SAM and the track it operates on, for use with a Hydo-Mobile scaffolding system. Construction Robotics completely redesigned the track to fit our Pro-Series scaffold. Poynter fabricated the track for the robot to move along as an extension to the scaffolding, and Wilhelm’s Steel Division fabricated the structural support of the track.
With the help of the robot, our in-house fabrication capabilities and Poynter (a Wilhelm affiliated company), our team began the Pacer’s project one month ahead of the original schedule. Poynter fabricated the track for the robot to move along as an extension to the scaffolding, and Wilhelm’s Steel Division fabricated the structural support for the track. CR originally designed SAM and the track it operates on for use with a Hydro-Mobile scaffolding system. They completely redesigned the track to fit Wilhelm’s Pro-Series scaffold. Creating a track to work with our Pro-Series scaffolding system allowed Wilhelm to gauge SAM’s operation as we would use it.
Real-time productivity tracking helps to keep SAM on schedule. Software from Construction Robotics comes with SAM that allows anyone with access the ability to track the robot’s progress throughout the day. This includes any stops the robot makes prompting the user to log a reason for its delay each time it stops. It also tracks usage over time to deliver productivity reports.
“So far, Wilhelm holds the record for SAM production,” said Construction Robotics co-founder and President, Scott Peters. “It was great to see them get the record after just a few weeks of running SAM; it showed their ability to learn and implement the machine successfully.”
“We’re tracking SAM’s productivity using separate cost codes on the jobsite,” Berrisford said. “Using the CR software, I can check the live feed at any time, print reports and find out what bricks were laid by date and time.”
Using SAM on site not only enhances productivity, it also reduces health and safety risks to the labor force. According to Peters, masonry injury rates are the highest of any trade. Using SAM drives down the potential for injury to the workers.
Sam is operated by Masons, and the masons still do all the ties, insulation and flashings etc, as well as tooling all the mortor joints for the Brick Sam lays. This work however is less physically taxing, therefore reducing the potential of injury.
As experts in automation, CR continues to evolve SAM’s capabilities with new software enhancements. Features are continually being added. CR is also working on the capability to lay brick standing up (soldier course). Continual monitoring of SAM’s productivity gives Peters insight into what to implement next.
“The data for SAM is constantly uploaded to the website allowing CR to keep an eye on the machine’s production and operation,” said Peters. “We continue to analyze the data to understand what features are necessary in future software updates to help customers improve and be more successful with SAM.”
The value SAM brings to the jobsite is measured, improved and achieved. Peters said this piece of equipment forces a different way of thinking; labor force is flexible where with SAM, pre-planning is essential. Integrating SAM’s capabilities with architects and designers will continue to make brick design easier.
“They have the potential for adding huge value to their customer now that [Wilhelm] has a robot in their arsenal,” Peters said. “We give a lot of praise to Wilhelm. Mike and his team have done an excellent job of implementing SAM on this project and getting successful results. They have a great understanding of what this technology can help them achieve, which is very exciting to see.”
The Pacers Training Facility is the seventeenth project to benefit from SAM technology. There are currently five SAM robots in operation with a sixth just built, and more on their way. As this technology continues to evolve, Wilhelm expects to continue meeting the demands of tighter schedules and more challenging work environments.
Happy New Year! With 2016 behind us, I wanted to take this opportunity to extend a sincere “Congratulations” and “Thank you” to all involved in making this past year a record setting time of growth, innovation, and learning. This year was a year of firsts. Wilhelm was selected for its first international contract, won the largest contract to date in company history, employs a record 1,700 employees, and became the first Construction Manager in the world to own a Semi-Automated Mason (SAM). All of these milestones mark an unwavering dedication to clients, employees, safety, and innovation.
In 2016 Wilhelm wrapped up numerous iconic Indianapolis projects including: Cummins New Indy Office Headquarters, the Indianapolis Firefighters Credit Union and Union Hall on Massachusetts Ave., and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Space Object Theater. These along with our other significant projects promote community and create spaces for learning, healing, teaching, playing and discovering.
Wilhelm strives to be industry leaders in innovative techniques and practices. This year, Wilhelm became the first Construction Manager in the world to own a Semi-Automated Mason (SAM). SAM can lay over 2,000 bricks in a day in comparison to the average 400 laid per mason. Continuing to adopt innovative technological practices like SAM will bring a heightened advantage to Wilhelm’s clients in regard to productivity. Additionally, Wilhelm implemented company-wide technological updates to increase efficiency of day-to-day operations. In the coming year, we will continue to pursue opportunities to invest in innovative practices to best serve clients and remain an industry leader.
Each of our 1,700 employees are the cornerstone of Wilhelm. Attracting and retaining the best workforce in the industry allows Wilhelm to continue to pave the way for industry innovation and safety. Each employee’s passion for their work is displayed in the quality of their craftsmanship. Without everyone’s hard work and commitment to our mission we would not be where we are today.
Safety continues to remain priority one and a critical pillar of Wilhelm’s functionality. Active involvement from all levels is needed. Through our company’s safety program, written communications, training, meetings and helping with inspections we ensure the company is backing up ALL safety policies and procedures. In 2016, we focused heavily on daily safety huddles. This provided ample opportunity to share and distribute information ensuring all employees on the jobsite were of the same mindset.
We will continue our successful push to reduce safety incidents, increase efficiency, and reduce rework into 2017. Strides were made in 2016 on each of these endeavors and we will progress even further this year.
As we look forward to 2017, it will again be an opportunity to be at our best. To provide industry leading client experience. To excel in safety, employee experience, and safety practices to lead by example and to continue our push to strengthen our community. .
With exciting projects kicking off like IU Health Bloomington, two new Pharmaceutical Warehouses, the new Sun King Distillery & Tap Room in Carmel and many more, we look forward to exceeding the client experience, challenging conventional processes, fostering employee growth and continuing to maintain safe jobsites.
Thank you for your efforts in 2016. I look forward to the many more exciting endeavors that 2017 will bring.posted in
In 2015, Citizens Energy Group launched its Partnership for Excellence in Research and Learning (PERL) initiative – an effort to encourage students that graduate from universities in Indiana to stay and grow their career in Indiana.
Sarah Holsapple, Citizens spokesperson, said that PERL is designed to retain talent. “After graduating from college, Citizens wants students to seek jobs in Indiana rather than going out of state or even out of the country,” said Holsapple. “Like many companies, Citizens will likely experience a high number of retirements over the next decade. So, as a crucial part of our future planning, we are continuously looking for talented individuals who could fill positions on our team.”
The PERL initiative was born as a way to introduce students to the type of employment opportunities available to them at Citizens now and when they graduate. To do this, Citizens is partnering with universities and a few of its industry partners, including F.A. Wilhelm Construction, to foster greater student engagement through collaboration on real-world design or construction projects to allow them exposure to project lifecycles.
University partners include schools such as Purdue, Indiana University, Ball State and Trine Universities. Citizens works with “university ambassadors.” Ambassadors are Citizens staff members who work individually with the faculty at a given school – often their alma maters – to identify areas of student focus that might mesh well with a current or planned construction or engineering project.
Once a project is identified, Citizens’ university ambassador will work with the faculty and staff to develop ways to get the students actively engaged, either through projects or through onsite tours.
Holsapple said Wilhelm is one of a few vendors that Citizens has reached out to for help in reaching students and providing them with real-world project experience. “We want to show students that when they graduate, there are a lot of places where they could work, not just Citizens,” she said. Citizens is hoping to build the program into a statewide initiative.
“Wilhelm is happy to assist,” said Wilhelm president Phil Kenney. PERL is a good fit with his company’s own workforce development initiatives. “We need to continually draw young people into the construction industry both on the management side and in the field. PERL engages students in administration and management and helps us to bring people into the industry from that side.”
Chris Stolte, Wilhelm’s Director of Human Resources, agreed, saying that PERL fits well with some of the ongoing outreach efforts the company already has in place with colleges and universities throughout the state. He said several Wilhelm employees serve as active members of advisory boards at universities and that the company’s participation in PERL provides additional opportunities to connect with students.
Stolte said PERL also supports Wilhelm’s recruiting efforts by providing students real-world opportunities that expand on those they receive through participation in the company’s internship program. “At Wilhelm, we give our interns real world experience, placing them in the actual roles they’ll be filling after college,” he said.
Kenney said Wilhelm is exploring the different ways the company might be able to assist Citizens’ PERL initiative in the future including possibly providing tours, teaching classes, and offering mentoring.
The PERL program is still evolving, and is open to different types of opportunities. One example is a recent collaboration between Citizens and Purdue University that benefitted both the students and Citizens. Holsapple said the senior class of engineering students toured the new Citizens Reservoir project at Geist and then researched ways to efficiently pump water from the future reservoir to the Citizens water treatment facilities. “Some of their research will be considered in the design for the facility,” she said, which has not only offered Citizens a fresh perspective on a difficult engineering problem, but also helped students “open their eyes to the opportunities for good work right here in Indiana.”
Holsapple said she hopes that as PERL becomes better known, developing curriculum to include PERL opportunities will become “second nature” to the professors at participating universities.
With opportunities for professional practice like the one that Citizens Reservoir provided for Purdue students, chances are pretty good the program will catch on.
Wilhelm’s mark on Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral Renovation still echoes through 30 years of holiday celebrations
This holiday season, as they have for the past 30, parishioners and visitors to the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis can experience the wonder of the season gazing upon an intricate and magnificent display of an almost life-sized nativity in the sanctuary of the church.
It wasn’t always so easy to see, though. For decades, the crèche was displayed behind a large wooden rail along the altar in the church, obstructing its view. In 1986, that bar was removed as part of a significant renovation designed to bring parishioners closer to the altar, the focal point of their services and religious celebrations.
Pastoral Associate, Deacon Steve Hodges said the renovations were needed to support liturgical changes made by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s to foster greater connection between parishioners and their priests during Mass. He said, “Part of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council was to get the congregation to be more active and engaged in the celebration during the hour-long service. Hodges said the most noticeable change resulting from the renovation was that it brought the people physically closer to the priest during the service. “This makes you feel more connected and in touch with what is going on,” he said.
F.A. Wilhelm Construction managed the renovation, which Hodges described as extensive. The sanctuary, which is the main altar area of the building, was extended outward in the shape of a peninsula to bring it and the congregation closer together. Physical separations including the altar rail were also removed. Hodges said that prior to the renovation, the lighting was marginal and that even with all the lights on, the sanctuary was still fairly dark. He said the new lighting installed during the renovation improved the space dramatically making it more welcoming. The colors were also changed to make the space brighter with many of the religious paintings – canvases with deep, rich color — replaced with white statuary.
Hodges said there is a lot more room in the sanctuary than there used to be, noting that rows upon rows of dark wooden pews were replaced by chairs to offer more flexibility in the arrangement of seating for parishioners. The main cathedral can hold about 1,000 people as a result of the renovation, and the sanctuary can seat about 100 people during major celebrations without taking space away from the congregation. “We do this for ordinations,” he said, adding, “It’s really pretty impressive for the congregation, too, to see all the priests and the bishops up there at one time.” Hodges said in addition to several religious celebrations each year, the space is used for the ordinations of priests and deacons throughout the Diocese. The cathedral is also host to an average of 30 Confirmations each year – welcoming of hundreds of children from suburban parishes into full discipleship with Christ.
The renovation was challenging in a number of ways, especially in terms of the cathedral’s size and age. However, at that time, Wilhelm already had more than a decade of experience with historic renovation projects and cultural and religious facilities. Kenney said. “We understand the complexities of church projects. This is important because they’re all pretty unique. Not only was this building large and intricate in size, it also is the home church of the entire Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It is a sacred place to many, and people were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the renovations.”
Working on such an important building was a natural fit for Wilhelm. Kenney’s grandfather and company founder, F.A. Wilhelm, was a strong supporter of the Catholic Church in Indianapolis through both his financial gifts and the gift of his time. His commitment was also evident in the work of his company, past and present. To date, Wilhelm Construction has worked on more than 375 small and large construction projects at Catholic-related facilities throughout the Midwest since its founding in 1923.
When I drive around town,” Kenney said, “I can see my grandfather’s imprint on the community in so many buildings in a certain kind of stone or a type of feature he was known for. It’s very gratifying to see the impact the company and our family has had on these buildings that are a part of the faith of so many.”The cathedral is an important place for Catholics throughout Indiana and is known for its holy day celebrations and all the special events that take place there. Pastor, Father Pat Beidelman, and his congregation serve the local community through their many ministries.
Hodges said, “One of our major ministries here is that we have a soup kitchen in the building that used to be the grade school.” He said the ministry started in 1928 by handing out peanut butter sandwiches. “We’ve been feeding the needy ever since.”
The church provides 140-150 weekday meals and provides food through its pantry for more than 1,000 families every month. “They come from all over the neighborhood — people are coming from every direction because they depend on us,” said Hodges.
In reflecting on the past 30 years, it’s clear that the 1986 renovation by Wilhelm helped to bring the church’s parishioners closer to its faith while other, external changes continue bringing them closer to the local community.This Christmas season, as it has for so many, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral will be there, continuing its longstanding tradition of nourishing both the body and soul of its parishioners and the surrounding community.