From left, Pond Jacksonville Office and Financial Manager Donna McQuade with Donna Higgs, FDOT District Two office.

Every year, Pond’s Jacksonville office and its Financial Manager, Donna McQuade, plan, fund raise and work to ensure the success of the local Jacksonville Construction Career Days.

Construction Career Days was started in 1999 by transportation industry officials to increase the number of workers in the construction industry. This national educational outreach program was designed to introduce high school students to various career opportunities available to them in the construction industry in a hands-on environment where they can operate machinery and speak with industry veterans. Local CCD events are held in almost all 50 states and are organized by transportation industry partners from the public and private sectors.

The first Jacksonville event was held in February 2015, and McQuade has been there since the very beginning. McQuade worked with the co-chairs to organize the corporation, open bank accounts, and consulted with an outside CPA to establish the non-profit (501(c)3) status from the IRS.

“This event is the only one of its kind that exposes juniors and seniors in high school to construction-related industry jobs,” said McQuade. “It’s important for students who are not college-bound to know there are good jobs available to them upon graduation and it is just as important to show college-bound students different types of disciplines in engineering if they are inclined to consider those areas.”

Planning for the event each year (held in early Spring) begins at the close of the previous event. There are twelve committees, each composed of Florida Department of Transportation members (FDOT) and consultant staff.

McQuade holds the position as Treasurer and her counterpart in the District 2 Financial Office, Donna Higgs, coordinates the grant work while McQuade handles expenses for the main event and record keeping, as well as coordinating private sponsorships, donations and the disbursement of funds for the annual golf tournament.

“We work diligently all year to obtain sponsors, and we have been very fortunate that so many contractors, engineers, surveyors, and others have been so generous in their sponsorships,” said McQuade.

At the end of the event, both FDOT expenses and private sector expenses are combined and a report is issued to the event chairs, who in turn submit it to the FDOT. The group averages about $110,000 in expenses to hold the event, and since they receive only $45,000 in grants from the FDOT, it becomes critical that the private sector raise enough funds to cover the remaining expenses.

McQuade said it has been rewarding to be part of the event team and noted that working directly with FDOT staff, as well as colleagues in the industry, has given everyone a chance to work on a common goal without project interference or consultant/FDOT bias.

“Many of us were heavily involved with creating the first event and each of us has taken pride in its evolution,” said McQuade. “We have watched it grow into a well-respected educational presentation where we have students traveling three hours one way to attend.”

Jacksonville’s Construction Career Days will be held Feb. 13 through Feb. 15. To learn more, click here.

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