Amidst the dog days of summer, the city of Rochester is buzzing with activity as construction crews remain hard at work tackling new commercial structures and Destination Medical Center (DMC) projects. The evolving industry comprises skilled female laborers and business owners, who play a critical role and are key to project success—and it needs more of them.
In 2020, the Rochester City Council approved a revised Targeted Business and Workforce Participation Plan for DMC projects, with new goals for participation of women that increase to 7% in 2021, 8% in 2022 and 9% in 2023, in addition to a 15% goal for participation of minorities.
Despite long-known gender and minority gaps in the field, particularly for women on the frontlines of the job site, the local labor force includes trailblazers Stacey Geers of Knutson Construction and Darcy Tello and Lexis Tello of Med City Installation. In addition to serving in their professional roles, they are advocates and sources of encouragement for other women in the construction trades.
Background: I grew up in St. Cloud and went to Apollo High School.
Beginning career: I was a laborer for seven years and have been a labor foreman for three years. I decided to go into the trade when a good friend suggested that I try laboring. It was the best decision I made. I started as an apprentice laborer and was required to do a certain amount of schooling to work up to a journeyman.
What I do: There are many different duties as a laborer. My work includes doing demolition, pouring concrete, cleaning, assisting carpenters and performing dirt work. My employer, Knutson Construction, is a general contractor so we work with all the trades to make sure the job goes as smoothly as possible.
As a foreman, I look ahead to determine what is needed for tools and materials for the next week and the next month and also where other trades need to be in the schedule. I ensure safety on the entire job site
In supporting other women laborers and newer workers, I try to explain as much as possible, so they are comfortable with their tasks. Sometimes the work can look intimidating, but it might not be so if I explain things in detail or show them how to do something before they start.
My inspiration: What I like most about my role is the variety of work I can do in one day. It never gets boring. When I need support, I look to one of my superiors for their knowledge.
Challenges and rewards: A challenge in this work can be learning all the different names that one piece of equipment or material can be called. It’s like learning another language. At the end of the day, what makes me feel good is that I tried my hardest and worked to the best of my ability.
Background: I was born in Madelia, Minnesota, to a single mother. My father was in prison when I was born and spent many years there. I moved to Rochester with my mom, and later I left school after having my daughter at age 15. At 16, I obtained my GED and decided to work in the medical field—in group homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes for more than 15 years. Today I am the owner and president of Med City Installation, which I started two years ago.
Beginning career: I have a medical background, which I was unable to continue due to health issues. In 2016, I met my fiancé, Jessie, a flooring installer. I joined him on numerous jobs and then started my own commercial flooring business—something completely new to me!
Go for it! If you are determined and have an interest in the construction field, it’s definitely worth it. This is no longer a man’s world, and you can do anything! It can and it will happen, and you are never too old to start a whole new career.
What I do: We install a variety of commercial flooring in settings such as schools, hospitals, hotels and fitness centers. My specific job includes bidding, bookkeeping, payroll, job-site walkthroughs, and communicating and planning with other contractors. I try to take part in every aspect of the business, where we work alongside many trades including painters, electricians, and ceiling and drywall specialists.
My inspiration: The variety of projects and the different types of flooring make this work interesting. The fact that I’m a minority woman and have my own business in a white and male- dominated field is amazing. I hope to inspire other women, including women of color, to reach for the stars.
Med City Installation
Background: I grew up mostly in Minnesota. I graduated from Stewartville High School with the desire to go to college for nursing, but recently that passion changed to becoming a nutritionist. I never saw myself getting into floor installation but have been a flooring apprentice for the past year.
Beginning career: I started this career last spring when COVID-19 first hit. I was going to college and worked as a server and bartender until the restaurants closed down. My mother, who owns Med City Installation, offered me a job. The construction field is very hands-on, and I was intrigued by the fact that I would be put to “the test.”
You CAN do this job. Due to the construction field being mainly a ‘male’ job for so long, I feel as though women are afraid to get into this line of work. You soon come to find out that you are able to do anything, especially now when women are being incorporated in all aspects of work that previously were considered wrong or ‘too hard.’
What I do: I do the prep work before we lay the actual flooring, including sweeping, scraping, buffing and gluing. I also lay flooring, such as carpet tile, plank, tile and carpet. I work with all trades, especially on larger commercial job sites—electricians, wood and metal carpenters, painters and plumbers.
My inspiration: I enjoy the guys I work with and the fact that I am constantly learning more about the trade. It goes beyond just putting a slab of carpet on the floor; if it isn’t prepped properly, the wrong glue is used or you don’t use certain patterns, the job can fail.
Challenges and rewards: It’s challenging to work with very detailed or intricate flooring materials, such as vinyl or rubber. You absolutely have to perform certain cuts, welding mechanisms and prepping details. It can be intimidating if you only have the exact or a small amount of extra material. I never realized how much effort, work or detail go into the installation. I love how complex flooring is.