Cultivating a Tilt-Up Workforce

Erecting panels is the more prestigious job on a tilt-up crew. “To build a tilt-up crew the first thing is to understand the product,” says Shawn Hickey, president of SiteCast Construction, Ottawa, Ontario. “Lots of contractors get overwhelmed by the whole project and end up using too many workers. The key is to break it down into tasks and determine how many you need for each piece and get rid of those tasks that you don’t have the expertise to accomplish.”

Getting panels properly positioned is critical. Rather than using unskilled labor to build the box-out onsite, you might have a carpenter shop build it instead. Shawn Hickey works to build in simplicity. “Understand the task at hand and build-in repetition and get the guys who know how to do each individual task to do the things they are good at and trained to do. But then make it simple. Keep everything as basic as possible.”

The crew that places the concrete in the panels may be a sub to the tilt-up contractor. "We’ll sub out the rebar — the bar busters — that’s a different crew. Then the placing and finishing guys come in. Some contractors might have their own crew to do that but it’s a special set of skills and I can’t keep a crew busy doing just that. Then we come back and do the erection, although that can even be subbed out in some places, like California"

Reinforcement steel placing is a specialized skill. Hickey’s crews will typically only do the framing of the panel forms and erection of the panels.

Attracting young workers to any construction job is one of our industry's greatest challenges. And they are educated about safety. There’s no doubt that having an educated workforce results in a safer job. Hickey's company recently became a union contractor, "and they are educated about safety. Any contractor today who doesn’t have his safety ducks lined up won’t survive for long. No matter how much extra we pay union workers, a single accident would eat that up several times over.”

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