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Empowering Association Chapters: A strategy to energize younger generations

Associated General Contractors of America – Save the Associations Vol. 11

Earlier this summer we explored what it means for an association to empower young professionals with the Associated General Contractors of Washington. This week we spoke to their national counterpart – the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) – about what it means to empower association chapters.

National Issues, Local Solutions

“Like many industries, the construction industry is very much affected by a shortage of skilled workers,” shared Christi Beatty, Vice President of Chapter Support Services at AGC. “We are not expecting that to change anytime soon.”

Starting over 20 years ago, AGC committed to attracting and retaining young talent through a variety of efforts. Their most successful initiative was empowering their chapters to be creative and take risks when designing events and programs for young professionals. “Our chapters are doing a lot of the meaningful groundwork for change,” said Beatty. “By creating events and networking opportunities that appeal to young professionals, our chapters have energized the younger generation, and their getting involved in the work of the chapters.”

We saw how this empowerment led to the Washington chapter’s success in engaging young professionals on task forces, committees, and at annual events. Beatty shared examples of two other chapters that are thinking outside the box to recruit young talent.

  1. The Colorado Chapter of AGC received a government grant for technical education programs after they brought to light the reality of the workforce shortage.

  2. The Nevada Chapter of AGC is helping build a magnet school for middle school students interested in the trades. The chapter is helping with the physical building and providing support to the program.

Similarities Across Chapters

While each chapter has its own programming and events, Beatty shared that many of the young professional programs across the country are focused on similar ideas.

  1. Networking – Young professionals want to network with each other and with senior members at the association.

  2. Soft Skills – Most chapters are seeing a great demand for soft skills education.

  3. Community Service – Millennials want to give back and chapters have found success in incorporating that into their young professional programs.

  4. Association Leadership – “It is one thing to tell young professionals they have a voice and another to actually give them a voice,” shared AGC chapters and the national association have shown young professionals how much they value their opinions by giving them seats on committees and their boards.

Caught in the Middle

With the AGC young professional programs having been in existence for 20 years, the association is now faced with the challenge of keeping people engaged when they no longer fit a program demographic.  “We have helped grow all these young professionals over the years, and we do not want to lose them.  Because they have aged out of the program, but are not senior enough to run for board president, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep them engaged,” shared Beatty.

Many chapters have initiated an Executive Leadership Training program to combat this issue.  This 6-12 month program consists of monthly training sessions and quarterly off-site retreats. This program has been wildly successful among those who have aspirations to move up within their companies.

Advice for Other Associations

“Be willing to innovate, take risks, try new things, and be willing to fail,” advised Beatty. “If you continue to do the same things and maintain the status quo with a traditional mindset and old legacy model, you will have a difficult time engaging the next generation of members.  And, that approach could be devastating to the future of associations as we know them.”


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