Meet Christee Holbrook
Christee is the majority owner of Graham Roofing Incorporated in West Point, MS. She has built and maintained important relationships with customers, vendors, contractors and community leaders while overseeing the day to day operations of the company.
In 2009 we had a strategic planning meeting for Graham Roofing. One of the main topics discussed was that we didn’t have applicants knocking on our door anymore and the younger generation of contractors and architects didn’t know who we were.
How do we fix this? Get involved! Start going to career fairs, find construction programs and promote roofing and Graham Roofing. So that’s what we did!
Can you share your role in the Mississippi State internship program?
- Our senior estimator heard about the MSU Building Construction and Science program (which is only about 10 minutes from our office but was pretty new at the time) through the then director. Over discussions on what the program needed, giving students experience in roofing was discussed as well as donating materials to provide roofs for the tiny houses they build each semester and guest speaking.
- Our senior estimator is asked to guest speak on roofing every semester.
- GRI also provides the roofing materials for the tiny houses they build. These are then sold to help support the program.
- As we got involved more with the program, I was asked to be on the Industry Advisory Board for the program and now serve as the board chair.
- We started getting “summer” interns about 11 years ago from the program. They mainly worked in the field with our roofing crews to learn more about commercial roofing. Over time, we’ve tried to bring the interns in from the field on weather days to shadow the estimators/project managers.
- GRI getting involved with the MSU program has just evolved over time. The more we have volunteered and gotten involved in the program, the more interns we have had.
What made you want to get involved in the internship program?
- Just like everyone else, we’ve needed employees over the last few years and these students need the experience.
- We now feel like it’s our duty to mentor to the next generation. If we had all started mentoring years ago, maybe the construction industry would not be so desperate for employees now?!
As a business owner, how does your company benefit from engaging in the program?
- Again, we need employees and they need jobs and experience. We really try to work around their schedules and work them as much as they want to work and can work. We allow them to be flexible if they have class or projects due.
- Just like in all college/training programs, students get the foundation for whatever degree or certification they are working towards. By giving them internships, they can apply what they’ve learned in class and studio to real life situations on the job. We are helping them prepare for their future jobs!
- A HUGE benefit to having our interns is relationship building. Once they graduate and go to work for a contractor or another subcontractor, who will they remember when they need a roofer on a project? Graham Roofing 😊
- It’s also so rewarding to be able to mentor and encourage these students.
What has been the most rewarding experience during your time working with your interns?
- Watching them finish the program, get jobs, and become part of our industry and knowing you had a small part in their lives. It’s hard to let some of them go!
Any advice you would offer a company looking to get involved in a local internship program?
- It’s a win-win for both of you! Don’t forget you can use interns to help with marketing, accounting, contracts, office work if your local community colleges or universities have programs. We had a marketing intern that we hired when she graduated!
- The more you put into anything, the more you get out of it. We are working on more of a structured intern program at Graham Roofing because we see the benefit of having interns.
- Graham Roofing has also gotten involved with local high schools and career technical facilities (CTEs) in our area. We have had to look for different ways to find employees. CTEs that have construction programs are another way to find employees. Students that are looking to go to work when they finish the programs come out with a basic knowledge of construction and safety and several have a completer NCCER card. We are encouraging the programs to have students take the OSHA 10 hour while in the program. (Also, trying to make it a part of the curriculum).