Webcor-Sponsored Student Team Wins Safety Award at CIEF Design-Build Competition

Webcor sponsored Buhach Colony High School in CIEF’s Design-Build Competition, an annual event founded in 1985 by Webcor VP Mark Lambert's father, Jim Lambert.

May 30, 2024


Before Mark Lambert was Webcor’s vice president of finance, he was a field laborer for Sundt Construction—his first foray into the industry to which he’s remained committed for the last 25 years.

Despite construction’s standing as the second-biggest industry (trailing closely behind healthcare) when Mark was in high school, it was never posed as a field worth exploring by his teachers or counselors. Instead, he was encouraged by his dad, who served as EVP of Sacramento Builders’ Exchange for nearly 30 years , and his dad’s friend, who connected him with the summer laborer opportunity at Sundt.

“If it hadn’t been for that introduction, it’s very likely that I would not have stumbled into this profession,” Mark reflects. “At school, construction was never presented as a real career option. However, my dad, who has an MBA and BA in Education, has always been an avid supporter of introducing students to the trades, especially those who aren't bound for college.”  

That’s where the Construction Industry Education Foundation (CIEF) comes in. Founded by the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange, CIEF aims to inspire the next generation of construction leaders by introducing high school students and young adults to the many rewarding career paths offered within the industry. In 2023-24, CIEF’s education and mentorship programs will serve over 10,000 students and award more than $145,000 in academic and summer program scholarships.

For the third consecutive year, Webcor sponsored a Merced-area high school in CIEF’s Design-Build Competition, an annual event founded in 1985 by Mark’s father, Jim Lambert. The competition currently takes place in Northern California, Southern California, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth with plans to eventually expand to Fresno, Oregon, and the Bay Area.

“Next year will mark the design-build competition’s 40th anniversary,” Mark says. “We hope Webcor will continue its involvement, as it’s a great way to promote the construction industry to the younger generation.”

According to Sr. Vice President Greg Chauhan, Webcor’s prioritized Merced-area schools as a way to continue nurturing our relationship with the Central Valley community following the UC Merced 2020 Expansion. Of the 3,200,000 craft hours worked on the $1.2 billion project, 82 percent was performed by San Joaquin Valley residents.

“After working with Atwater High School our first year, we connected with Buhach Colony High School last year,” Mark says. “We’ve developed a great working relationship with Mr. Alejandre, who runs BCHS’s engineering design program.”

This year’s NorCal competition at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento brought together 600+ high school students spread across 42 teams. The students had four months to design and prepare construction documents for a 96-SF structure according to criteria provided by CIEF, Mark explains. At the competition, industry professionals judge each team on their structure’s design, construction, code compliance, and safety.

“Thanks to program sponsors such as Webcor, there’s no cost to a single school or student to compete,” Mark says. “CIEF provides all necessary construction materials at the event.”

Over the course of the school year, Webcor Safety Managers Paulo “Porky” Muñoz and Kevin Kwit had trained BCHS’s engineering design students on proper ladder, scaffolding, and power tool use techniques, taught them construction safety basics, and helped them build a “practice” shed in preparation for the long-awaited two-day competition.

“Porky and I are very proud of everything the students accomplished not just during the design-build event, but throughout the school year,” Kevin says. “All but two of the kids are graduating this year. One is interested in pursuing a career in the trades, one is planning to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and the team’s safety manager, Anela Ruiz, wants to become an electrical engineer—although I’m pretty sure her calling is to become a safety professional!”

And CIEF’s Team Safety Award Goes To…

Kevin and Porky largely credit BCHS’s Team Safety Award win to Anela’s outstanding dedication to her role as safety manager. It was the culmination of countless hours spent developing a comprehensive pre-task plan, Site-Specific Safety Plan (SSSP), crisis plan, emergency flow chart, and evacuation map under Porky and Kevin’s thoughtful mentorship and guidance and equipping them with everything they’d need for a safe construction project.

“Anela kicked butt at the competition,” Kevin says. “She greeted every judge that came to our site and led a morning pre-task meeting and stretch-and-flex. She also completed the scaffolding safety inspection herself, which really impressed the judges.”

As BCHS’s sponsor, Webcor provided OSHA posters, Webcor’s Right to Know poster, an automated external defibrillator (AED), a mobile trauma kit, a #5 fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, and an eye wash station for use at the competition, which particularly impressed the judges. All students wore proper PPE at all times and had earned their OSHA 10 certifications prior to the event.

“Working alongside the students while teaching them about the construction industry is always the best part of sponsoring CIEF’s design-build competition,” Kevin says. “Since Anela plans to study electrical engineering, I planted the idea of her joining an electrical union!”

The Impact of Webcor’s Partnership

It’s no secret that workforce development challenges have long plagued the construction industry. This year is no different—according to Associated Builders and Contractors, the industry’s workforce shortage is expected to top half a million.

Without significant intervention, the shortage will only continue to surge in the future, Mark says. What’s lacking isn’t an interest in the trades—it’s effective outreach and exposure to opportunities in the industry.

“I believe there’s a large constituency of high school students who enjoy creating physical objects with their hands,” he says. “They would benefit from what our industry has to offer. Likewise, we need them to support our efforts to ensure a successful future.”

Programs such as BCHS’s engineering design club aim to bridge the gap between today’s adolescents and career pathways within the AEC industry. Webcor’s partnership has been integral to the club’s tremendous growth over the last year; after competing in CIEF’s design-build competition, student interest surged dramatically enough to warrant an entirely new class: Computer Aided Drafting Design (CADD).

“The CADD class will serve as a conduit to train and teach the construction skills necessary for next year’s design-build competition,” Mr. Alejandre says. “I cannot thank Webcor enough for introducing our students to the world of construction. When we first toured CIEF’s competition two years ago, the students were too hesitant about the build part to participate but felt excited to learn.

“When we decided to enroll in 2023, the students had Mark, Porky, and Kevin to get them started with some tools and construction basics. We’ve all loved the experience, training, and folks we’ve met along this journey.”

Programs such as BCHS’s engineering design club and CIEF’s design-build competition greatly benefit students regardless of whether they end up pursuing a career in the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industry, Kevin says. Beyond potentially inspiring them to join the construction workforce, these programs teach them basic life skills they likely would never have learned otherwise.

“I really wish my high school had offered programs like this when I was a teenager,” Kevin says. “How many 18-year-olds know how to use power tools effectively and safely? How many can say they know how to build anything—let alone a shed? The same goes for most adults!”

Lambert Family Trust Scholarship

After the competition, CFO/CAO/Sr. EVO Matt Reece and Mark joined Porky and Kevin for CIEF’s annual industry lunch and award ceremony to celebrate the diligence, growth, and achievements of this year’s student teams. Mark was thrilled to not only witness BCHS receive the Team Safety Award, but to present the Lambert Family Trust Scholarship to this year’s recipients.

Established by Jim Lambert, the Lambert Family Trust Scholarship aims to support students joining an approved apprenticeship program or continuing education at any approved construction trade program within the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento. Every year, two students are awarded a $500 scholarship to help alleviate costs associated with their selected program as they prepare for fruitful careers in the construction trades.

“I take great pride in the fact that my dad started this program nearly 40 years ago,” Mark says. “It’s amazing to see how much the industry appreciates it, how it’s spread across multiple states, and how many students have benefited from it. I’m hoping my parents will be able to attend the 40th competition in person next year so they can see just how far it’s come and how broadly its impact has grown.”