Construction, Higher Education, and Law

Construction law firm focuses on young talent

May 7, 2015
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Hilger Hammond, including attorney Aileen Leipprandt, sees the importance of participating with members of the construction industry in West Michigan to try and create a talent pipeline to fill their future workforce needs.Courtesy Hilger Hammond

A law firm focused on the construction industry is working to put hard hats on the heads of young, talented individuals in the area.

Hilger Hammond is in its seventh year as a law firm and since its inception the firm has been focused on not only helping its construction industry clients with their legal issues, but with the breadth of issues facing the industry.

The main issue construction firms are facing today is a dearth of talent.

As different members of the construction industry come together in West Michigan to try and create a talent pipeline to fill their future workforce needs, Hilger Hammond saw the importance of participating in that effort.

“Our contractor and subcontractor clients are working hard to solve the issue and we are working hard to participate and carry our weight in doing that,” said Aileen Leipprandt, attorney at Hilger Hammond.

CWDA rally

One of those solutions was the formation of the Construction Workforce Development Alliance in 2014.

Three main membership organizations, the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, the American Subcontractor Association of Michigan, and Associated Builders and Contractors of West Michigan, as well as a handful of other groups, developed theCWDA to focus specifically on talent initiatives.

Hilger Hammond quickly became part of the CWDA, with attorney Ben Hammond helping to create the CWDA’s organizational document.

As a member of CWDA, Hilger Hammond will be participating on Thursday, May 7, in the organization’s first big event, the Construction Workforce Development Alliance Rally.

The CWDA Rally is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Community College M-TEC Center, 622 Godfrey Ave. SW.

The event will bring together commercial and residential construction industry professionals to celebrate the industry and raise funds to inspire and attract young people to the industry.

With a mission to “attract, train and retain the next generation of construction professionals,” CWDA uses some of its resources to provide scholarship and training opportunities.

Tickets are on sale at

Mentorship opportunities

In addition to the firm’s role with CWDA, Leipprandt and Stephen Hilger, Hilger Hammond attorney, have served for the past few years as mentors to students who are part of GRCC’s Academy of Design and Construction.

Mentors meet with their assigned student twice per month and help them through a lesson designed by their classroom teacher.

“Sometimes you are trying to design a structure out of Popsicle sticks in less than five minutes that can support a marshmallow,” Leipprandt explained.

She said the students are usually in their freshman or sophomore year when they are assigned a mentor and the relationship lasts through graduation.

Not all of the students go on to a trade program or college, but Leipprandt said she knows some of the students have gone on to receive internships with the company for which their mentor works.

Leipprandt said from a mentor’s perspective its “rewarding and fun to meet with the kids and watch them through their high school career.”

The Academy for Design and Construction hosts a three-on-three basketball game each year to raise money for the program and to provide scholarships for the students.

“Last year we raised $10,000,” Leipprandt said. “That was a huge effort and to raise $10,000 through a basketball tournament gives testament to the community and tradespeople who are really supporting the development of young people.”

Leipprandt said raising money is a big part of creating a pipeline of students ready for construction careers. That’s because it funds the programs that expose students to these career opportunities.

Hard hats equal futures

At Hilger Hammond, Leipprandt spearheaded an effort earlier this year to donate 60 hard hats to a group of students in the Academy for Design and Construction’s introduction class.

The class visits construction sites to allow students to see firsthand the types of work happening on a job site. To visit construction sites, however, each student must wear a hard hat. The shortage of hard hats was a limiting factor in the program.

The 60 hard hats donated by Hilger Hammond have opened the door to important real-life experiences for the students, she said.

Leipprandt said she hopes the firm’s efforts will show others how even a small donation can make a big difference.

“It was my hope and inspiration that if people, especially those supporting the development of the trades, understood the power they have through contributing a donation, even just a part of a request, they would,” she said.

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