Construction News

Elizabeth Morse, Project Manager, WIC Week Profile

By I Build NH | March 12, 2021

The week of March 7-13, 2021 we recognize and celebrate Women in Construction Week (WIC) and the many women who work in and make important contributions to our industry every day! We are pleased to share the stories from many of the women who work and live in NH and VT. The project was created in partnership with I Build NH and NAWIC Granite State Chapter.

Why construction?

Like many, I grew up with my family in construction. I loved driving around with my parents and touring construction sites. Seeing the finished product was always something to look forward to. One thing that really drove me to following in my family’s steps was the idea that they were all able to say, “I built something from ground up.” I never really understood the statement completely, until I began working for Lewis Builders.

What is your education/training background?

I am a graduate of Central Catholic High School in Lawrence Massachusetts, and most recently I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and a Minor in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. I know, how did a 20 something go from an education in healthcare to being a Project Manager in residential construction? Well, a family business is a family business.

How did you find yourself working in the construction industry?

As I was working my butt off studying for my nursing boards, I was working part time as a Sales Associate in one of Lewis’ single family home developments. Once I passed my boards I decided to take a small sabbatical before searching for a Nursing position. One thing led to another {my father got sick of me enjoying the summer} and I was asked to help facilitate the transition from an in-house construction manager to a hired construction management company for a new 32 unit garden style condominium we are building in Atkinson, NH. Lewis Builders has been constructing new single family and condominiums for the past 63 years but we had never developed a project of this magnitude before.

I worked to coordinate between the design team, the new construction management team, and the owners. This was not a quick project what so ever {like my father made it seem}, and so I felt it would make more sense for me to follow the project through then to have them hire a new person and create a potential gap of information. So I have slowly made my way from Administrative Assistant to Project Manager. And honestly, I am really glad I cut my summer short, because not only am I being paid to learn, but I am so creating something from the ground up.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

I grew up around men in my family – my grandfather, my father, my uncle, and my brother – who have worked in construction their whole lives. I recently realized that I also have known women who work in construction for almost all my life, and didn’t even know it. Until I began working this job, I never knew that the women and other staff in the office were also contributing to the construction that was being built. It sounds stupid now, but finding out what the people in “the office” do, has created such a different perspective for me.

I love that this career allows for such growth and opportunity in so many positions. There are so many ways to be involved in this industry that there is no limit of job opportunities. It just takes some patience and hard work. The thing I most enjoy about my career is that I get to work with new people, new ideas, new understanding and new processes each day. I really enjoy the idea of spending the rest of my career learning.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

The largest, most interesting, and ONLY project I have worked on has been Atkinson Heights a 55+ garden style condominium development. Each building is 4 stories, 32 units- all single level with 2 bed and 2 bath, square footage ranging from 1,400 to 2,800sf. In addition to 4 levels of residential space we also incorporated a heated lower level for parking. I have this building memorized from front to back.

I had no experience in the process of construction until this project. Even without any experience, I have been able to start from the very beginning with a set of incomplete construction documents, and a construction management team to help work through spec’s and the bid process. I have been on site from the start of dirt work, and have been a part of all construction processes from pouring concrete to installing trim. When I say I have been involved with this building from the ground up, I am not kidding. Though it has been a struggle for me to learn as I go, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?

GET YOUR FOOT IN THERE. As much as you think it might be a difficult industry to get your foot in, it isn’t. There are SO MANY job opportunities that are open and ready for new, willing individuals to step into. Construction and really any of the trades are a great way to learn and evolve your understanding about the things around you. I used to get nervous interjecting myself into “Work” conversations between my parents and my brother, because I didn’t really understand. But like anything, once start asking questions and putting yourself into the conversation, you slowly start to understand.

If I could go back to redo my education and choose construction, I don’t think that I would. Not because I foresee myself going into nursing anytime soon, but because my education doesn’t dictate what I should spend my life doing. Ironically, I have been able to incorporate a great deal from my degree into my construction career. Yes, how to clean an injury, but also how to communicate, stay organized, prioritize and the safety measures that we learn in OSHA were a refresher for me. What I am trying to say is, if you are a recent high school/ college graduate and have an interest in construction, take that leap. If you are a middle aged woman in a career that just doesn’t suit you, and have an interest in construction, take that leap. Take the leap and try something new, and if you don’t like your first choice, there are SO MANY other options in this field, you WILL find your niche.

ABC NH/VT
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association representing nearly 21,000 chapter members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically, profitably and for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. ABC’s membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors.

I Build New Hampshire
I Build NH represents the construction sector of the state through the Sector Partnerships Initiative (SPI). I Build NH represents companies involved in heavy construction like municipal water treatment systems and road building, electric and telecommunication infrastructure, civil engineering, heating/ventilation/air conditioning businesses and more.

National Association of Women in Construction
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has over 115 chapters throughout the United States, including the NAWIC Granite State Chapter. NAWIC provides its members with opportunities for professional development, education, networking, leadership training, public service and more. NAWIC advocates for the value and impact of women builders, professionals and tradeswomen in all aspects of the construction industry.