Building Blocks Program Expands Contractor Opportunities

Issue Date: 
December 15, 2016

Building Blocks graduates
Building Blocks graduates pose in Alumni Hall

More than 30 local women and minority contracting professionals have completed the inaugural Construction Management Building Blocks Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Graduates were recognized during the program’s recent closing ceremony.

Through a series of specially designed business-management sessions, the Building Blocks Program provided contractors from traditionally underrepresented communities with unique insights to expand their operational practices. The tips and skills taught through the program were meant to aid contractors in attaining larger, more prominent contracts with major organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Sessions included in-depth lessons on accounting and control, bonding and insurance, estimating and bidding, and project management, among other topics.

“I walked away from the Building Blocks Program knowing that I don’t necessarily have to be a large construction firm in order to work with major organizations like Pitt,” said Darrell J. Williams, one of the program’s graduates and owner of the Pittsburgh-based firm Wilco Construction.

Williams, who has run his own business since 2003, also said, “I already have the expertise and the skills needed to do a fine job for them. The Building Blocks Program taught me procedures, business practices, and the various avenues to go through in order to work with larger organizations.”

In an effort to increase diversity among the University’s own contracting partnerships, the program launched as a collaboration between Pitt and other construction leaders in the region, including Skanska USA; Mascaro; Massaro; PJ Dick; RYCON Construction, Inc.; Volpatt Construction; and UPMC. Skanska, one of the world’s leading construction and development companies, originated the Building Blocks Program through its Global Diversity Council in 2008.

“Skanska is committed to creating jobs and sharing best practices in the communities we work in,” said Skanska USA Executive Vice President and General Manager Ed Szwarc. “By partnering with the University of Pittsburgh, we make a vital investment in the local community to help expand contracting opportunities in the region.”

University of Pittsburgh officials said the program speaks to the University’s commitment to enriching diverse communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“The Construction Management Building Blocks Program shows just how much Pitt cares about being a good neighbor to the City of Pittsburgh as well as how much we want to reach out to Pittsburgh’s citizens and make a real and lasting difference in the lives of people,” said Scott Bernotas, Pitt’s associate vice chancellor of facilities management.