F.H. Paschen is a national general contractor, construction manager, and design-builder headquartered in Chicago. Recently ranked #126 in ENR’s yearly national rankings, Paschen works in just about every sector within the industry. Those familiar with Chicago have seen Paschen’s work up close with the new pedestrian bridge across Lake Shore Drive at 41stt Street, which was recently named ENR’s National Project of the Year.
Paschen’s projects take them all over the country, from D.C., Dallas to Atlanta and beyond. Closer to home their banners hang on the O’Hare 21 Program, the 43rd Street pedestrian bridge, the Chicago Park District Headquarters and Campus, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s West Lake Corridor project, an expansion of the train system from Dyer, Indiana, to Hammond. A key to Paschen’s success—beyond their expansive expertise—is their investment in their employees and the communities where they live, work, and build.
The Value of a Good Partnership
Over the last year and half Mary Person, Paschen’s Vice President and an RW Board Member, has been developing critical programming and strategies focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion—efforts that ensure diverse local businesses and community residents are represented on all projects that the company works on, not just those with participation goals.
“It starts at the top with our CEO, Jim Blair. We have intentional conversations daily on how we can remain an industry leader in diversity and inclusion.”
Internally, Paschen’s work is focused on bringing underrepresented people into engineering and the trades. “We believe that introducing people to these fields at a younger age is important,” she noted, and they do that through two programs. Paschen Scholars is designed for high school students interested in engineering and culminates in a summer internship, and Budding Builders (pictured at left) introduces students to career pathways in the trades. “A lot of times, women and minorities don’t have the same advantages or access to these careers as everyone else. We want them to see all the opportunities that are in front of them.”
They take a similar approach with their workforce. Some companies who have a diversity goal on a west or southside project might hire a worker because of the zip code they live in, then lay that individual off when a project completes. Not Paschen. “We don’t end a person’s career when a project ends. We don’t let that person fall by the wayside. If they work hard, there’s a good chance they’ll continue working with us on other projects.”
Externally, Paschen focuses on cultivating relationships in workforce development and in the subcontractor space. “We understand the value of good partnership. It makes our jobs that much easier when we have a partner that helps us develop the workforce we need to fill gaps and build those big projects,” noted Mary.
It’s through this work that Mary came to know Revolution Workshop. She first connected with us when a friend in the field urged her to get in touch. “He said ‘Mary, I really feel like Paschen can do a lot to help RW,’ and so I met with staff, and we’ve worked together ever since.”
Paschen is a true partner in every sense of the word. “What’s been so awesome about this relationship is that we have a shared mission. We both get it, and we make it happen,” Jackie Gallo, RW’s Business Services Manager, said. “Mary and Paschen are advocates for us in a lot of spaces, and that’s critical for our work.”
Team members attend mock interview days, work with our Social Enterprise to craft custom products, host trainees for dinner, and introduce us to their network of subcontractors and government contacts.
They’ve even brought crucial programmatic gaps to our attention. “Every interaction we have with them makes our program stronger,” said Jackie. One of our graduates ended up being afraid of heights, and our team wasn’t aware. “They helped me realize that we need to curate an environment where people can experience a variety of work. We’re increasing exposure to different trades, and that’s because of insights Mary and her team have shared with us.”
And Paschen isn’t afraid to go to bat for us, either. “Mary and the team at Paschen have been incredibly strong supporters of our work to make Chicago’s Project Labor Agreement more equitable and inclusive for our Black and Brown communities,” said Manny Rodriguez, RW’s Executive Director. “It’s been vital to have their input and support on this work as a union contractor.”
To Mary, though, this is what being a good partner is all about.
“For us, it’s not just about getting graduates jobs—it’s about making sure that everyone we work with knows how important the organization’s work really is. Anytime I get to tout RW, I do.”
In return, she says we fill an important role for her and her team. Our Employer Advisory Council is designed to serve as a wealth of knowledge for our program, but Mary sees it as something more. “Revolution has brought so many companies together that would never otherwise work together. We talked about workforce trends that impact us all at the last meeting, and it was so incredibly valuable to bounce ideas off of everyone.” Our work together inspired an overhaul of their application process to be more inclusive, and we’re a thought partner for her, too. “I couldn’t have launched the Budding Builders program without Revolution’s help.”
Building it Right
The benefit of hiring from RW is clear for Mary and the folks at Paschen. “When a project manager is creating their plan, their job is to build it and build it right. That’s what they’re focused on, and everything else is a distraction from doing that really important work,” notes Mary. And when a contract has a diversity goal, it adds a layer of complexity. “Revolution gives us access to amazing graduates who are qualified and who have proven themselves by completing the program. They’ve done everything they need to do, and they know what they want. That gives our project managers the ability to focus on building safe, on-budget, and on-time projects.”
Mary also points to our ongoing support of alumni. “RW’s mentorship doesn’t stop just because a trainee graduated. The team follows up with people and says ‘hey, how are you doing? What do you need help with?’” Paschen knows that they can hop on the phone with RW to brainstorm strategies to ensure a graduate’s success.
“If we didn’t have a partner like RW, we’d have to do it all.”
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