In construction, as with any hands-on discipline, real-world experience is invaluable for newcomers to the industry. Whether one goes to work straight out of high school or chooses to further their education in a technical college or traditional university program, learning on the job can only accelerate a burgeoning career.
Mateo Carrillo and Cody Johnson, both of whom graduated from Kennesaw State University with Construction Management degrees in 2021, are thriving in full-time careers with Anning-Johnson Company after being recruited at a career fair while still in school.
Mateo is a graduate of Norcross High School and transferred to Kennesaw State after beginning his post-secondary studies at Georgia Gwinnett College. He began as a general laborer, then moved into an administrative field role assisting the general foreman. Upon graduating from KSU, Mateo accepted a full-time project management role.
Cody came to Kennesaw State from Cartersville’s Cass High School, where his curriculum included a four-year construction path. He started with A-J as a general laborer and quickly advanced into the company’s carpentry apprenticeship, which he completed in December 2021. He is now in a lead role on a project at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital and has been placed on a fast-track management pathway.
“Mateo started with a tremendous amount of knowledge that he was able to gain from school and real-life experiences on some of Atlanta’s most state-of-the-art projects,” says Edwin Parra, Operations Administrator for Anning-Johnson Company in Atlanta. “Cody also is capitalizing on his education and trade skills. Both of these young men exemplify what hard work and dedication can equate to in our industry when educators and industry align.”
Here, Mateo and Cody share more about their respective career paths and the role of practical experience in their education and training:
How did you get interested in construction?
Mateo: I’ve always been interested in seeing how things are built. I enjoyed watching TV programs on remodeling or anything that had to do with construction. I had two friends who went to Kennesaw State for architecture. I took my core classes at Georgia Gwinnett and was planning to study programming, but my friends kept saying they were enjoying architecture, and that’s when I started getting more interested in it, so I applied to Kennesaw and studied construction management.
Cody: I would always help my dad with small projects around the house, but when I got to high school and got into the construction program, that’s when I really realized that’s what I wanted to do. We did a little bit of everything, but my senior year, we built a building that we were going to sell, and it was all wood framed, and that’s when I realized framing was what I wanted to do.
Talk about your experience working for Anning-Johnson while also going to Kennesaw State.
Mateo: I started as a laborer on the State Farm site and was able to gain a lot of knowledge about materials, jobsite logistics, how the foremen ran their jobs, and how things got built, not just in drywall, but also in other trades. I was a full-time employee and student – I took evening classes while working early mornings and afternoons. Anning-Johnson helped me out by being flexible with my schedule, so I was able to be full-time in both work and school, and build my knowledge on the job site and at school.
Cody: I was told that you get out what you put into it, so I really showed up every day and gave it my all. I advanced into their carpentry apprenticeship, and with my background, I had already been familiarized with tools and I caught on quickly. Once I graduated, I went into more of a leadership role where I’m running crews, whether that be framing, blocking or hanging sheetrock, and that’s where I’m at today.
How did those experiences help prepare you for the full-time construction career that you’ve now begun?
Mateo: You can start out as a laborer and understand the job site, and that really helps management when you come to the office – you can figure things out more easily when you use the information you learned on the job site. I enjoy using the knowledge that I got in the field to help me when I’m in here looking at drawings and doing takeoffs. I feel grateful for the opportunity to have been a laborer, to move materials around and use my tools.
Cody: Some of the [things] I see on jobs, I can kind of think back from school and say, ‘Hey, we went over this, this is already familiar to me.’ … I feel like for employers, [on-the-job training] shows your willingness to learn and your ability to learn. … Being hired on full-time with Anning-Johnson has been life-changing for me. I mean, that’s a career, it’s not just a job.