Internships are meant to give rising talent practical experience in the field they hope to work in one day. Mark Kravatz, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Providence (HabitatPVD), has found a way to take it a step further. Not only are his internships beneficial to students, but they are also helping provide more affordable housing to those in need.
Additionally, together with Procore.org, Kravatz is helping bring top-notch talent to an industry that is facing an ongoing labor shortage.
“Giving students the power to lead and drive the work has contributed to the success of many projects throughout my career in the non-profit sector,” explained Kravatz. “My goal is for the students to leave their internship having built tactical skills to then enter their field of choice, to feel equipped to go into the world and be work-ready.”
In 2017, Procore.org, Procore’s social impact arm, formed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity International to provide Procore’s platform, unlimited user licenses, implementation training, and full-service customer support as an in-kind donation. Today, over 150 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in five countries further their vision of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Each Habitat for Humanity affiliate takes advantage of their free access to Procore differently. When Kravatz first learned about the Habitat for Humanity and Procore.org partnership, he immediately signed up his affiliate to gain free access to Procore. However, he was concerned that the software would be too complex.
Despite his initial misgivings, Kravatz saw an opportunity with Roger Williams University’s (RWU) Construction Management program to give students some valuable construction experience that could lead to job opportunities in the industry. This was beneficial for both the students and construction firms looking to hire new talent.
It wasn’t until after four RWU construction interns started working with Kravatz at HabitatPVD that he learned they had already been exposed to Procore in the classroom.
RWU is one of numerous accredited CM university programs in the country using the Procore platform through Procore for Universities. Launched in 2015, the program provides 85 percent of accredited CM university programs in the US access to the Procore platform free of charge.
The students entered the internship equipped with classroom knowledge of how to utilize Procore in the field. By running the building projects with Habitat, the interns were able to take their academic knowledge and apply it to gain real-world experience.
“I’ve been fascinated by the built environment from a young age and always eager to learn about how complex systems come together to make a final product,” said Matthew Affrunti, a recent graduate of the CM Department at RWU. “I initially came to Roger Williams University to study engineering, but after learning about the opportunities within the construction industry, I changed my major and started working as a laborer while home during school breaks.”
Affrunti was one of the first RWU students to intern with HabitatPVD. He has also been instrumental in helping lay the groundwork for the partnership between RWU and Habitat PVD.
“The construction management program at RWU relies on students getting hands-on experience through internships, which I personally believe provides a better learning experience than what can be accomplished in the classroom alone,” said Affrunti. “Getting out to the build site on weekends and being able to work alongside volunteers to help build HabitatPVD homes is incredibly rewarding. In addition, finding the best ways for Habitat to utilize the valuable project tools that Procore provides has been such a terrific experience.”
With the help of the Procore Learning Portal, Affrunti and his team of interns obtained most of the available Procore certifications and assisted in setting up preliminary budgets and schedules for Habitat’s ongoing projects. In the process, Kravatz and his colleagues learned how to better utilize Procore on their projects.
“When given the right tools, I’ve noticed that students can produce professional quality work,” said Kravatz. “My vision is to engage students every year of their undergraduate education. By senior year, my hope is that they will be able to run the job site entirely on their own, and can use Procore to get it accomplished.”
For Affrunti, being able to tell potential employers that he has certified experience with the Procore platform has been a great discussion point in interviews.
“While employers understand there is always a learning curve associated with hiring recent graduates, it sure helps to be able to market the experience and I’ve been lucky to have experience with Procore as a differentiator,” said Affrunti, who graduated this spring.
Kravatz recognizes that there aren’t a lot of differences between being a project manager of a general contracting business and a nonprofit like HabitatPVD. Although it was intimidating at first, the RWU interns have helped demonstrate the benefits of using Procore to make their build process more efficient.
“Procore is being used by the builders in Rhode Island, like Gilbane, and it’s an industry standard,” said Kravatz. “So it’s exciting to be in the position to make that tool really useful for the students, to learn construction skills, and to help the families who need it.”
Students do everything from setting up the budget and schedules in Procore to hiring specialty contractors on the project, and the data they are collecting is especially helpful for the organization. By presenting potential funders with full transparency around project costs that Procore provides, HabitatPVD can secure more funding, build more homes, and figure out how to repeat the process in an even more cost and an energy-efficient way for the next build.
“Procore is a key partner to both the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Providence mission and to expanding student learning to empower the next generation of construction workers,” said Kravatz. “They can see first-hand how much we’ve been using the software at HabitatPVD to build healthy and safe housing. Procore doesn’t need to do this. But it shows that there is an ethos that engaging in the community is part of their DNA.”
It’s a win-win for the students, who build highly marketable career skills while also gaining meaningful experience as community members dedicated to providing service to help others. Affrunti certainly looks forward to getting more involved with Habitat for Humanity in the future, as his internship experience made him a lifelong supporter.
“Being faced with new challenges every day will provide me the opportunity to solve the same complex issues that fascinated me as a kid. With the help of programs such as Procore, I hope to be able to be part of the projects that will intrigue the next generation of aspiring construction professionals,” said Affrunti.
Kravatz has been similarly inspired by the students and the use of Procore in setting a new standard of quality for what is possible in the nonprofit sector.
“The truth is, we are looking to deliver a quality of service that is unparalleled to any organization, and set the bar for what could be in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors,” said Kravatz. “We want to be able to push the limits of quality and scale up to build dozens of homes a year. That cannot be done without a platform like Procore. Bottom line.”