STEM career: Construction Representative/Contracting Officers Representative
What type of profession is Construction Representative/Contracting Officers Representative?
I work for United States Army Corps of Engineers. My official title is construction representative (ConRep)/contracting officers representative (COR). I have two different classifications here at the Corps. I was hired as a Construction Representative and have progressed up into a more contract administrative role as a COR.
A ConRep is a hands-on inspector for construction/maintenance projects. My job as a ConRep can range from performing dredge inspections to contractor compliance. My job as a ConRep can also be very diverse when involved in several vertical construction projects at once. I have been privileged to work on a few very prestigious projects (some turned into top-secret buildings) and construction throughout the country (Colorado and Maine). As a ConRep I am responsible for performing quality assurance inspections. QA inspections are the last time some components will be looked at on a project. I have to review every aspect of a project from the base up; I need to know the specifications and plans so I can make decisions in the field of what has been installed correctly or incorrectly. It can be very rewarding and very challenging when dealing with contractors.
This position is always changing in construction – one hour you are focused on foundations and soil compaction and the next you have to be concerned with what the sequence of an air handler is or where the finish level on gypsum board walls is supposed to be. All of this work is done to document and report your findings to the contractor and the contract officers representative. From there, a decision is made as to if it is going to be corrected, if there a credit due back to the government for non-compliance to the contract or if there is a better alternative.
Working as a COR is a new thing for me. A ConRep reports to a COR in a typical project, while the COR is the point of contact when it comes to contract issues. The COR is responsible for deciding what is required legally per the contract. A COR is the main point of contact for the contractor’s project manager. The COR on a project makes the tough decisions on enforcement and compliance to specifications/drawings/safety issues. There are times that a COR may shut a job down for weeks or have a contractor remove work that has been completed and is not up to our standards or requirements.
What education and experiences were required in order to obtain your position?
I was hired by the Corps while I was attending Eastern Michigan University through an internship position that my MCCC instructor Alex Babycz heard about and passed on to me. I was able to do very well in my internship and began an official position upon completion of my bachelor’s degree from EMU.
Why did you choose MCCC?
I chose MCCC because I was awarded a full scholarship from the college. I had the mindset that I would join the trades and work in the construction field right out of high school. I applied for this scholarship through my high school and was the only student from my school to do so. I have always been told to never pass up an opportunity that you would or could regret. I knew if I passed on this I would always think of what could have happened if I had tried going to college.
How did MCCC prepare you for any further education?
MCCC and its partnership with EMU and its the 3+1 program in construction management benefited me greatly. I went on to EMU and felt as if I could have tested out of the courses that it offered me in construction. Alex Babcyz and the construction management technology faculty at MCCC prepared me in 100- and 200-level courses to the point that when I was at EMU talking 300- and 400-level courses, I felt that I had already completed the work. Without MCCC, I would not be where I am today.
How did MCCC prepare you for the workforce and your career?
I was hired at a local painting contractor as an estimator before I graduated from MCCC. Here I was doing basic “take-off” and applying a price to various painting projects around the area and the country. The education that I had gained at MCCC was necessary to perform this job. Prior to going through MCCC I had no idea how contractors assembled estimates or ran projects. Now I was bidding on painting projects, some with over 15,000 man-hours that were valued at over $2 million. This was a diverse job that would have me going to a residential house to provide a quote to paint a door to working on various power plants, Lucas Oil Stadium, University of Michigan buildings, General Motors, and Chrysler and Ford plants.
What advice would you give 7th to 12th grade students looking to enter the STEM field?
Be willing to accept a different path than what you think you will travel. Some things are just meant to happen. Adapt, learn and live life to the fullest with no or limited regrets. Stay in touch with people in your life that mean something to you. You never know when or how you may need them in the future. Network, network, network… go out and shake that guy’s hand, introduce yourself to anyone, and be professional and respectful.
To learn more about STEM careers go to http://www.onetonline.org/.