Pepper Rutland MMR
Pepper Rutland, president and CEO, MMR

Position: President and CEO, overseeing 30 branch offices throughout the United States and in  four countries
Company: MMR Group
What They Do: MMR is an industry leader in instrumentation and electrical construction, maintenance and technical services serving clients in the oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical, industrial manufacturing, power generation and power development markets.
Career: Rutland is an LSU alum, where he played for the Tigers and was part of the first graduating class in construction management. He worked for a small instrumentation and electrical company before founding MMR in 1991. He has helped grow the business to be the largest privately-owned merit shop electrical and instrumentation contractor in the United States.

The Challenge

As work in the industrial construction industry has increased in recent years, the demand for qualified craftspersons is at a premium. As a result, an industrywide epidemic of manpower shortages is making it difficult for companies like MMR to find qualified craftspeople, especially as older craftspersons retire and leave their positions vacant.

“Young people are not entering the trade industry, and this can be widely attributed to the lack of encouragement to obtain a vocation and the idea that successful employment is hinged upon a college degree,” Rutland says. “We are seeing what we think is a continued problem with the workforce here. Louisiana is both blessed with a lot of natural resources, but also cursed with the fact that we don’t have enough qualified craftspeople to do all of the projects proposed.”

The Resolution

MMR has taken a proactive approach to workforce training, recruitment and development with the MMR Craft Training Program and Craft Training Center. Opened in 2014, the center is recognized by the National Center for Construction Education and Research as an Accredited Training Sponsor and Accredited Training Center.

“We recognized the need for a true technical training facility,” Rutland says. “It’s a great asset for us and has put us at the forefront of what craft training needs to be.”

Under the guidance of a master instructor, workers can receive electrical, instrumentation and industrial maintenance technician certifications. An electrical journeyworker apprenticeship training program recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and State of Louisiana is also offered.

“This is a good fit for what the state and the region needs,” Rutland adds. “While other contractors rely on third-party vendors to certify their craftspersons, we have developed our own unique program to empower our employees with top-quality, in-house instruction.”

The Takeaway

“It pays to be proactive,” Rutland says, “and it pays to invest in your employees. The lack of qualified craftsmen is a major hurdle our industry is facing. In order to meet the demands of our clients and continue our commitment to providing the safest, most knowledgeable craft, we knew something had to be done.”

Taking a proactive stance to workforce development has allowed MMR to redefine the industry standard of a qualified craftsperson and supervisor. The training program and the center have also increased employee retention, giving MMR an extremely low turnover rate. Those employees who successfully complete the training program are eligible for additional benefits such as paid vacation and an increased hourly wage.

“Whether investing in our employees’ health and welfare or their craft training, we truly believe when they join the team, they’ve found a career, not just a job,” Rutland says.

MMR’s program and center have been so successful that the company is duplicating facilities in Texas and at other branch offices. The company has also partnered with LSU, Clemson, Texas A&M and several local high schools and trade schools to deliver the message that high-paying jobs are available for skilled craftspeople.