A Mirror on My Year, and a Hopeful Look Ahead
UCON Upfront: November-December 2021, by Kurt Kniffin, Stacy and Witbeck Inc., UCON 2021 President
As 2021 is winding down, I’ve had the chance to reﬂect on this crazy, tumultuous, reﬂective, and hopeful year. A year of unending pandemic, social unrest, and the opportunity for personal and practical learning.
Serving as the President of UCON this past year has been a true honor for me. It’s provided me with the chance to learn and grow personally and professionally. I have been blessed to be supported by family, co-workers, fellow board members, and UCON members. First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife, Ronda, and our entire family for supporting me while I spend time away from home, helping to grow our company, and support our industry. Also, thanks to my fellow co-workers at Stacy and Witbeck for supporting UCON and my eﬀorts in helping spread the UCON brand and the importance of the work UCON does.
Many of us, myself included, thought the pandemic would be in the rear-view mirror by 2021. Instead, the new variant has expanded its reach and has continued to impact our lives. And now, we are continuing to deal with the virus, vaccine requirements, and the wide range of opinions regarding it all. Unfortunately, the pandemic will still be a part of our lives in 2022, and my hope is that we can all get through it with respect for each other and hopefully fewer masks!
The pandemic has also continued to change the way we work. Technology has allowed us to remain productive during this pandemic, but working from home has had its challenges. For myself working at home, I’ve had to remind my wife that I am not a plumber, electrician, or “jack of all trades.” For this reason and many others, getting back to the oﬃce has been a highlight of 2021. I’ve enjoyed the face-to-face contact, as well as the focus it allows, and still believe in the beneﬁts of working together in person.
As we’ve gotten back into the oﬃce, we’ve also been reminded of and motivated by the changes for the better that are happening in the workplace. It’s no secret that our industry is dominated by men. Women makeup over 50% of our national workforce yet represent only 10.3% of the construction workforce.
We can all help make the industry more attractive to all by stepping up and not allowing harassment or hazing and providing the same opportunities and advancement for all employees.
This is also extremely important in order to make people of all backgrounds feel comfortable in construction. Our country continues to reel from the George Floyd murder and the social unrest caused by this unjust act. It was the match that was thrown on a mountain of kindling ready to explode. And now, 18 months later, we hear a lot about Diversity and Inclusion which means diﬀerent things to diﬀerent people. Like I said, this year has been about personal growth and learning, and there are many conversations and actions that need to happen surrounding these important topics to keep our country and industry moving. This will require honesty, commitment, and maybe a little discomfort.
2021 has been a year that pushed us all— to improve, to stay hopeful, and to look out for one another... and I am confident that 2022 will only be better for each individual member, our respective firms, and our incredible industry.
About a year ago, I received a package in the mail from our corporate oﬃce, and inside was a compact mirror like I remember my mother would have in her purse. There were no instructions in the package, just the mirror with our company logo. A few days later, we received a follow-up message from our Diversity and Inclusion committee asking us to examine what we saw and what looking at ourselves made us think of. What a profound idea for each of us to look in the mirror! When I looked in that mirror, I certainly thought that I can do better and will do better!
UCON has been an incredible opportunity to make a diﬀerence this year. I am so grateful to be part of an organization committed to improving our industry for everyone involved. As a member of UCON, I am grateful for the support and professionalism of the UCON staﬀ. They have high performers in every position and provide a strong link to our Labor and Political Partners.
Even in the conditions of 2021, UCON has still been able to provide world-class learning opportunities for members and found ways to grow. In 2019, UCON provided eight classes; in 2021, they offered 44 classes and are planning to provide 76 classes to the members in 2022. This is another example of UCON’s resilience, commitment to members, and strength as an organization.
Another major strength of UCON is that members are all Union contractors. This is the common thread that gives us a special strength in the industry and unique bond with our Union partners. We rely on them to provide skilled craft people to support our projects and I believe we will only succeed if we are together.
All and all, 2021 has been a year that pushed us all— to improve, to stay hopeful, and to look out for one another. I’ve appreciated being in a position to help UCON navigate a year like 2021 and am conﬁdent that 2022 will only be better for each individual member, our respective ﬁrms, and our incredible industry. Thanks again for a wonderful experience and the honor of representing our members.