Championing apprenticeships takes time and concerted effort, yet seeing and hearing about the individual successes of those who apprentice in our profession makes the investment all worth it. Sydney Contant, a project manager for Atlanta Design & Build, began her career apprenticing under Mike Pike and Jamie Franks learning the basics of remodeling (demo, grading, digging footers, framing, trim work), as well as the crucial component of paying close attention to details. After apprenticing for five years and at the encouragement of her father, H. Dale Contant, Sydney completed an intense, eight-week course offered by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and graduated with the Certified Remodeling Project Manager certification.
But what led Sydney to this path of construction apprenticeship? In high school Sydney exceled in art classes from photography to pottery. She also was an avid soccer player, swimmer, and earned her black belt in karate. Being creative and kinesthetic, Sydney had natural aptitudes toward success in a construction-related job. Although she rarely accompanied her dad to work, Sydney was encouraged by her father, H. Dale Contant, to give Atlanta Design & Build (and construction) a try shortly after she finished high school. According to Sydney, “I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything I have done without the five years of apprenticing.” Sydney’s hands-on experience beginning at eighteen proved to be a solid foundation for her future career in the construction industry.
With that, Sydney began her climb in the construction industry. With eight years under her proverbial tool belt, Sydney is a leader in the construction industry, being named one of our nation’s 40 Under 40 by Professional Remodeler magazine for 2016. She is daily involved in creating schedules for her projects; selecting her subcontractor team; meeting with subs to walk through each job at the beginning, middle, and the end; reviewing subcontractor quotes; communicating with customers; demolition; framing; trim work; reviewing sub contractors’ work; ordering materials, and meeting with inspectors for all trades.
Sydney’s success is largely a product of her combined perseverance, passion, and hands-on training she received early on working alongside skilled construction professionals. Sydney proves that a four-year degree, though admirable and required for many professions, is not necessary for success in every construction-related field. Sydney’s remodeling and project management knowledge come from specifically tailored certification coursework and on-the-job training. Sydney acknowledges, “It’s a personal preference” whether to attend college or whether to seek out hand-on learning. “Whichever path you take,” suggests Sydney, “you need to have hands-on and book learning. I chose hands-on first. That allowed me to physically do the labor and learn from my mistakes. After five years of that, then I studied to be a Certified Project Manager.” Skilled laborers who are passionate about the construction industry are cultivated best by hands-on apprenticeship experience coupled with training offered by industry-leading organizations.
Let’s work together to get the word out to young people and those looking for a career change: Do what you love, surround yourself with knowledgeable professionals in the field, and seek certification opportunities to better your employment opportunities.