Big 10 Talent Shift: From Gridiron to the Jobsite



Big 10 football stinks.

There’s just no other way to say it.



Talk to fans from nearly every school and they’re not happy.



Michigan’s woes started with the Week 1 smokeshow to Alabama.



Sparty at .500? Lansinginians thought they’d be 9-1 at this point.


Newbie Nebraska thought they’d be mopping up, but they still look like underachievers at 7-2. And Taylor Martinez’s throwing motion makes Tim Tebow look like Tom Brady….


Wisconsin is not really worth mentioning.


My alma mater Illinois is definitely not worth mentioning. Ugh. May the ghost of Jeff Jorge happen upon this woeful team, mullet and all….




Even the good teams in the Big 10 have major issues. Ohio State may be undefeated, but they are banned from bowl games because they are liars. Not that lying is newsworthy on college football – they just got caught. And Urban Meyer is 12 months away from another sabbatical…


And Penn State… well, they are still Penn State.





But all is not lost in the Big 10. While there aint much talent on the gridiron, there is plenty of it in the classroom. And if you are lucky, it’ll be coming to a jobsite near you.


In the last week I’ve spent time with some incredibly talented students focused on Construction Management.




At Purdue, Professor James Jenkins teaches his BCM (Building Construction Management) students about Safety. At the end of the term they receive their OSHA 30 certification. This certification alone should make these students more valuable by about $5K. The companies that hire them don’t need to pull them off the jobsite for 30 hours for training.


And the opportunity cost for these employees is huge – 30 hours on the jobsite in your first year is like counting in Dog Years – it’s worth 7x the normal amount because the new hires are like sponges.


In addition to the OSHA 30 cert, these students also completed Red Angle’s 6WK Safety Spanish training including daily online training, a book and 3 onsite workshops.



No, these students are not fluent, but they will be able to effectively communicate the safety basics – general introductions, PPE, daily cleaning, and the like in Spanish. Hispanics are nearly 2x as likely to be injured or killed on the jobsite – these students will begin to turn the tide on that statistic.


Most impressively, theses Junior and Senior-year Boilermakers were attentive, energetic and sharp despite the class times: 7:30 and 8:30 am on Fridays.


Whew. My senior year I didn’t wake up until… well, nevermind. This isn’t about me. Suffice to say we all didn’t make this type of effort.






Over at the University of Illinois, I had the privilege of spending time with the Global Leaders in Construction Management, led by Instructor Brent Young.


The diversity in this group is surely one of its strengths. When asked about the languages these students were familiar with, the list went on for a while….


  • Spanish
  • Latin
  • Russian
  • Bulgarian
  • German
  • French
  • Hindi
  • Urdu
  • Romanian
  • Arabic



These students are some of the brightest in the top Civil Engineering school in the country, but they also make time to think globally. The group is spending 2 weeks visiting jobsites in Turkey and Romania. In preparation, the group is considering the cultural differences in the these countries and how culture affects the managerial and leadership styles on the jobsite.


The students’ critical thinking skills impressed me. We started off with a game called “Fuzzy Math” where the answers are all numbers. It usually illustrates how we can easily be incorrect by Orders of Magnitude when it comes to thinking about Safety Incidents, Money, and Demographics in the construction industry.



Young challenged his team with casual interjections like this:


“Ok – to put this into perspective, consider the GNP (Gross National Product) of the US. How big is it?”


“What is the largest global construction firm in the world? Bechtel… Good. Now, what is their annual revenue… ballpark?”


“Think about the Resume Question we talked about…. How many tennis balls can fit into a 747 airplane? Think through the logic here, don’t just guess….”    


Thinking like this becomes really valuable when you find yourself on a $350M project and a massive change order arrives, severely altering your budget. To be able to quickly determine the impact, you’ll want to trust yourself when elaborating on why you think it’s more like $7.5M and not $750,000.


Reminds me of the Henry Ford quote: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”



So while next week’s Purdue v. Illinois match-up on the gridiron may not qualify as a suitable viewing option, just be aware the talent is in the classroom, preparing to help your company be successful in 2013 and beyond.






Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (, a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.


Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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