Building people while connecting communities

Living in southeast Washington, D.C. – not far from the U.S. Capitol but a world apart – I’d ride the bus overlooking the 11th Street Bridge every day to and from my job as a crew foreman for D.C.’s Department of Public Works. As a native Washingtonian, I was proud to be helping maintain this great city. But it also felt like it was just a job – I would look forward to getting off work. It didn’t have the goal-driven atmosphere and rewarding happiness I really wanted.

And then – as happened to millions of others in our nation – unemployment struck. In February 2011, I was laid off during a department-wide budget cut. I didn’t know what I’d do next. In the tough economy, I could have easily added to the already high unemployment rate in my Ward 8 neighborhood. But I thought back to those bus trips when I looked out at the work being done by the Skanska joint venture erecting the replacement spans for the 11th Street Corridor Design-Build Project. I was always amazed to see so much equipment moving about each day, individual units that worked together as a team.

11thstreetbridge

The 11th Street Bridges and Interchange

I decided I wanted to be part of that project. So, I walked into the project office and inquired about a job as a laborer. I was interviewed, and soon after I was hired. I was both honored and excited.

A few months after joining the project, my hard work earned me the chance to advance: I was asked to join the project’s on-the-job training program. This program aims to help D.C. residents contribute to the project while advancing their careers. To graduate, I needed to complete 1,040 hours of on-site training while working. Many people don’t graduate from the program because after obtaining employment on the project, they become complacent and no longer give full attention to their duties. I never lost focus on my quest to graduate, having been inspired by my Skanska family of goal-oriented team members. The training was extremely challenging, yet I completed those hours faster than anyone else. I wanted to be on this project, surrounded by winners.

As the first phase of the bridge was ending in the summer of 2012, I was blessed to be offered another opportunity – to work in the project office as an administrative assistant. I’ve stepped up to handling the payroll for this project’s 80 hourly workers, and now I’m helping process invoices too. I keep asking for and receiving more responsibility. In April, I was privileged to co-chair the 11th Street project’s Diversity and Inclusion Week committee.

My success has only been possible because of the support and encouragement from leaders on the 11th Street project. They have placed a lot of responsibility and trust in me, and I consider myself one of the luckiest men in the world. I love what I do, I love working with my colleagues and I love Skanska!


Richard LaFontant

Richard LaFontant

Administrative assistant

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