A handful of weeks ago, on my way home from the office, I received a call from my 73-year-old neighbor. “So, you’re now getting into the construction business?” he somewhat jokingly asked. I started to explain the situation to him, and by the time I finished, he responded, “Well, that does make a lot of sense!” I hung up and went about my business and really hadn’t thought about the situation until I was in Philadelphia working a project with a STEM ecosystem.
Neil’s question was a fair one. Pitsco Education founder and CEO Dr. Harvey Dean wanted to be confident handing over the keys to a family-built business that embodies a culture and core values nurtured and strengthened for more than 50 years. Harvey and his wife, Sharon, put a top priority on continued local ownership to ensure Pitsco’s future in Southeast Kansas. But at the end of the day, why in the world would Crossland Construction of Southeast Kansas, one of the largest construction companies in the US, want to purchase an education company?
I have a unique visibility into the situation that I shared with Neil, a view that helps make sense of the sale and the purchase.
What is my “unique visibility”? I’ve worked for both companies. In 2007, I was hired into Crossland’s education department as Education Coordinator who oversaw the day-to-day of The Crossland Connection, the school-based side of the department. They also had a strong focus on developing their own employees, and that occurred through The Crossland Academy. The director of the department was a former teacher and administrator in southwest Missouri who was introduced to Crossland by Pitsco Vice President of Education Matt Frankenbery.
At that time, Crossland was putting its money where many organizations were only putting their words, and they understood that investing in the future of area students and training their employees would pay dividends. It’s clear that this investment in education has paid off – in spades. Crossland’s annual revenues now exceed $1 billion.
Looking back on my role within the Crossland education department, I recall many key achievements. At that time:
- They identified and supported a national training program, The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), that was industry-recognized curriculum leading to credentialing of students and employees.
- Not only did Crossland recommend the training program to area schools, but they also paid for the textbooks and teacher PD so the districts wouldn’t have to use their own budget.
- They worked with the State Department of Education on statewide standard adoptions.
- They provided representation at job fairs, mock interview days, and field trips to large-scale jobsites including schools, water treatment plants, athletic complexes, and large distribution centers.
- During the summers, they hired interns out of the high school programs. Part of the summer programming had students building homes, some of which were donated to Habitat for Humanity in Joplin, MO.
- They recruited students out of Crossland Connection high schools and put some directly into the workforce and others into their internship programs at several universities.
- They attended and presented at some of the very same tradeshows that Pitsco supported, including ACTE.
- They supported multiple SkillsUSA® competitions.
These instances, among others, came to mind during my trip to Philly where I was working on behalf of Pitsco with a STEM ecosystem that was identifying industry partners to support their STEM initiatives. I was able to remember way back to 2007 an industry partner that was able to pull this off. Clearly, Crossland Construction realized the importance of business-education ecosystems before they even existed!
Since my time working for the Crossland family, I have kept a close eye on their mission and their commitment to education. They continue to support with a best-in-class mentality required in all they do.
Present day, their education initiatives continue to evolve. Specifically, their internship program is top-tier; it’s designed to give students, majoring in Construction Management or Engineering, robust hands-on experiences and training to supplement their university curriculum. The program is guided by personalized checklists, curated to help students achieve desired goals. Crossland’s internship program serves 125+ interns each year!
They also have a prescriptive program for high school students and young employees to develop skills and capabilities and obtain industry-leading certifications via a “50/50 mentoring partnership of hands-on field training and in-house and online education” mentoring called the Crossland Apprenticeship Program.
They also have an overarching goal of 40 education hours annually per employee through their intracompany education programming.
Not to mention, they are a builder of schools! Having built 400 schools in 125 districts, this is an exciting tangential connection.
Earlier this year, I was somewhat saddened to learn that Harvey and the Dean family were passing the torch, but I had an instant shot in the arm when I saw Crossland family members, led by Ivan Crossland Jr, walk into our building. I knew in that instant that Pitsco was in excellent hands!
On the surface, it might not make sense for a construction company to purchase an education company, but upon closer inspection, this transition makes absolute sense and entrenches Pitsco’s commitment to hands-on STEM education for the next 50 years!