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Jessica Gillette

Bridging the Gap: Mental Health Advocacy in Construction

Anyone involved in construction for more than a few years knows our industry faces mental health and suicide issues to an exponential degree.

Sherrie PNG

Sherrie Dickerson, ABC-VA Education Coordinator & Mental Health Advocate

But how do companies address the problem? How do we flip the script and create an environment where it’s okay to talk about your struggles? Enter: ABC-VA’s Education Coordinator, Sherrie Dickerson. Sherrie is a mental health advocate for her apprentices, instructors, team members, family, friends, and anyone who needs help. With continuous training in mental health, Sherrie is a brilliant resource for our members who want to create a safe, inclusive environment for their employees. We sat down with Sherrie for a wonderful conversation we know will inspire you to take the first step in implementing a mental health-first mentality.

What is your why behind your passion for mental health support in the construction industry?
My passion for mental health support in the construction industry stems from a deeply personal experience. I have a family member who works in the construction industry and has attempted suicide twice. While this is my biggest motivation in shedding light on the urgent need for better mental health resources, I also feel a call to help people and really be a rock for anyone who’s experiencing suicidal ideations. There are so many resources available for those who are struggling – we just need to educate companies and their leaders on how to recognize and address the problem head-on.

Tell me about the training programs you’re certified to teach.
I’m certified to teach several training programs aimed at addressing mental health issues in the construction industry. One such program is VitalCog: Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry, which educates individuals on recognizing signs, symptoms, and appropriate responses. It also provides guidance on postvention strategies for managers and supervisors. Additionally, I’m trained to provide Mental Health First Aid training, emphasizing de-escalation techniques, and highlighting what not to say in sensitive situations. Currently, I’m working towards certification in teaching the use of NARCAN, an overdose-reversal medication, to further support mental health initiatives.
Please note: VitalCog: Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry is a FREE training offered to our members. I will come to your office and provide a safe, open environment where your employees feel comfortable. Email me to schedule this training today!

What are 4 things companies can do right now to create a de-stigmatized environment where employees can say “hey, I’m not okay”?
1. Institute mandatory mental health breaks/check-ins. Require your employees to take at least two 10-minute mental health breaks during the day (if not more!), plus morning check-ins on the jobsite before work starts (supervisors should make everyone feel comfortable to either speak up or come to them one-on-one)

2. Book our VitalCog: Suicide Prevention in the Construction Industry – FREE for ABC-VA members

3. Ensure mental health services are included in your health benefit package at a reasonable cost

4. Find someone in leadership passionate and willing to speak up about mental health – you most likely already have someone on your team (you can also create a special email address where employees can reach out for mental health support—this provides a different way to communicate for those who are uncomfortable reaching out face-to-face)

How do you think leadership impacts the mental health conversation at a company?
Without leadership buy-in, employees won’t feel like they’re in a safe space, period. Leaders who lead by example and advocate for mental health can greatly influence the overall atmosphere. Adopting an open and available approach to mental health discussions, along with a top-down mentality, can foster a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable addressing mental health concerns.

Sherrie Antique Window

One of Sherrie’s antique window projects 😍

Sherrie, what are some things you do to be proactive in keeping mentally healthy?
1. I focus on things that are incredibly meaningful to me, like helping people. It gives me purpose and keeps my brain happy.

2. Creating antique windows is a passionate hobby of mine. It keeps my mental health in the green and allows for me to explore my feelings and creativity. It’s so soothing to work with my hands and create beautiful pieces of art that will make me smile, as well as others.

3. Mental health breaks! Life is tough, and we were not built to go-go-go and forget about ourselves. Taking intentional moments throughout the day to refocus, possibly meditate and do some breathing exercises, can make a huge difference.

Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
The construction industry has the second-highest suicide rate in the United States with men in construction committing suicide twice as much as the national average. We must all stop pretending like this isn’t a depressing threat. Whether you’re the boss, colleague, or the person struggling—be open to accepting help. A circle of support can be the difference between seeing your co-workers, staff, family, or friends the next day or never again.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please dial *988. While it will not make all your problems go away, it’s a fantastic resource to create a barrier between thought and action.

Mike Miller Awarded 2023 Member of the Year

Mike Miller ABC Virginia Member Of The Year W TitleAssociated Builders & Contractors – Virginia Chapter (ABC-VA), is pleased to announce our 2023 Member of the Year: Mike Miller, CEO of RetroAIM! This honor is bestowed upon a member each year that shows commitment to not only ABC-VA, but to the industry, throughout their career.

ABC-VA proudly celebrates Mike Miller as its 2023 Member of the Year. His unwavering dedication has helped shape the organization’s trajectory since 2004. Throughout his tenure, Mike’s commitment to ABC-VA’s mission has been exemplified through multifaceted roles and impactful contributions.

As an active member of the Membership Committee, Mike has played a pivotal role in fostering a vibrant community within ABC-VA. His leadership qualities became increasingly evident during his tenure as the Leadership Chair from 2019 to 2020, where he spearheaded initiatives to cultivate emerging talent and nurture future leaders within the organization.

Elevating his involvement further, Mike’s appointment to the Board in 2021 marked a significant milestone, underscoring his deep-rooted commitment to advancing ABC-VA’s objectives. Mike assumed the role of the inaugural Inclusion, Diversity & Merit (IDM) Chair in 2022, pioneering efforts that led to the successful acquisition of the organization’s first grant—a testament to his visionary leadership and strategic expertise.

Beyond his individual contributions, Mike’s impact extends to the collective endeavors of ABC-VA. His steadfast support for the State PAC underscores his advocacy for legislative initiatives crucial to the construction industry’s prosperity. Moreover, Mike’s advocacy goes above and beyond, with multiple employees actively participating in committees and contributing to the federal PAC, amplifying ABC-VA’s advocacy efforts on a national scale.

Notably, Mike’s dedication extends beyond administrative duties to hands-on involvement in pivotal projects. Serving as the owners’ representative for the construction of the new ABC-VA Hampton Roads Training Facility in Chesapeake exemplifies his commitment to advancing the organization’s mission to proudly serve construction professionals.

Mike Miller’s indelible imprint on ABC-VA resonates through his unwavering dedication, visionary leadership, and transformative contributions. As our organization honors him as Member of the Year, Mike’s legacy stands as a source of inspiration, guiding ABC-VA towards a future defined by excellence, innovation, and sustained growth.

Tell DOL To Withdraw Its Restrictive New Apprenticeship Rule

Click here to send an automated message to the DOL urging them to withdraw new apprenticeship rule.

On Jan. 17, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor published a proposed rule that would make significant and controversial revisions to the National Apprenticeship System, which will affect ABC members, chapters, apprentices and other industry stakeholders participating in government-registered apprenticeship programs.

While ABC supports government-registered apprenticeship programs and offers more than 450 such education programs across the country as part of its all-of-the-above approach to meet the workforce needs of the construction industry, the proposed rule implements dozens of burdensome and costly new recordkeeping requirements and reduces flexibility for GRAP sponsors and employers.

ABC is concerned this proposed rule will only exacerbate the construction industry’s workforce shortage, with over half a million new workers needed in 2024 alone, by discouraging ABC contractors, ABC chapter GRAP providers and other stakeholders from continued participation and future expansion of the GRAP system.

In short, the proposal will discourage participation by construction industry employers and GRAP providers and likely reduce the number of apprentices enrolled and graduating from GRAPs. Of note, DOL data suggests that, in FY2023, construction industry GRAPs had roughly 250,000 enrolled apprentices and graduated 45,000. Simply put, the current GRAP system is already unappealing to many construction industry stakeholders and is not attracting enough new apprentices or graduating enough skilled apprentices to meet industry workforce needs. This proposal will make the GRAP system even worse.


Specifically, the rule proposes expansive new recordkeeping for employers and sponsors regarding employment decisions, apprenticeship agreements, records of apprentice performance and progress, wages and benefits and more. It also introduces a new mandate and related paperwork burdens requiring employers to verify that all journeyworkers involved in upskilling and supervising apprentices are qualified to do so. The rule provides little clarity on what would qualify as sufficient evidence to meet this requirement. Regardless of how this requirement is implemented, it will represent an onerous and costly new burden on employers that are required to verify undefined qualifications of the many journeyworkers frequently involved in on-the-job training of apprentices.

The proposal’s imposition of a new endpoint assessment requirement represents an unnecessarily prescriptive and burdensome change to existing GRAPs, which are already free to implement such assessments if sponsors and employers determine they are needed. The DOL should remove this requirement to prevent increasing administrative/recordkeeping costs, preserve flexibility and avoid a new impediment to apprentice recruitment/retention in GRAPs.

The rule has a concerning new obligation for GRAP providers to request information from employers regarding past labor law violations. The provision imposes new civil and criminal liability on employers and provides little clarity regarding the responsibility of sponsors to verify employer disclosures. The DOL should remove this overreaching requirement, and at a minimum must provide additional clarity to sponsors.

The proposal significantly reduces flexibility for sponsors and employers by eliminating competency-based and hybrid GRAPs, instead mandating rigid, multiyear, time-based standards. This change would shut out new sponsors and employers interested in these approaches, and may result in the deregistration of existing GRAPs utilizing these legitimate and tested models if sponsors and employers determine transitioning to a time-based model is not feasible.

Finally, at a time when the construction industry is constantly evolving to accommodate new technologies and innovations, the proposed rule instead makes the process of establishing new occupations as suitable for GRAPs more difficult through the new “suitability” test. I urge the DOL to lower paperwork requirements for suitability applications, shorten the approval timeline and enforce decision deadlines. The proposal’s new emphasis on preventing “splintering” is unnecessary, and the DOL should instead let industry determine whether new GRAPs are needed to meet the needs of the market.


As currently written, the proposed rule is a step backward for the GRAP system and will exacerbate the construction industry’s existing workforce development challenges. Tell the DOL to withdraw this proposed rule immediately and reconsider aspects of the rule that will increase costs and reduce GRAP participation. To guarantee access to high-quality, well-compensated careers in construction for as many Americans as possible, the DOL must instead focus on streamlining and modernizing GRAP regulations to ensure as many sponsors, employers and apprentices participate as possible. ABC National is urging ABC members to respond to its grassroots alert opposing this DOL proposal by March 18. Use the ABC Action App to connect with DOL and make your voice heard.

Thirty-seven ABC Virginia Members Named National, Top-Performing US Construction Contractors

Top Performer(s) Top Performers 2024 No RibbonDulles, Virginia, March 7—Associated Builders and Contractors – Virginia (ABC-VA) today announced thirty-seven (37) member companies were named to Associated Builders and Contractors’ sixth annual Top Performers publication, which lists its contractor members that build the country’s most enduring, innovative, high-quality construction projects, ranked by work hours. ABC-VA now holds the record for most Top Performers.

To be eligible, ABC-VA Top Performers achieved Gold status or higher in ABC’s STEP Safety Management System, which makes the top-performing contractors more than six times safer than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics industry average, according to ABC’s Safety Performance Report. The majority of the honorees also must earn ABC’s Accredited Quality Contractor credential, which recognizes commitment to corporate responsibility in quality, safety, talent management—including inclusion, diversity and equity—education and community relations.

“Business growth is never an accident. It results from a combination of tangibles and intangibles—including a robust culture, innovative tools, a commitment to total human health and a pragmatic appetite for risk. We congratulate these exceptional contractors for operating successfully in a merit shop environment, attracting and retaining top construction talent and setting the standard in business growth,” said Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of ABC.

Through STEP, AQC and other robust programs, ABC-VA’s Top Performers demonstrate they:

  • Sustain and grow their businesses, financially and economically
  • Offer market-competitive compensation, benefit and retirement packages
  • Commit to world-class safety
  • Commit to workforce development, education and creating career opportunities
  • Commit to an inclusive and diverse work environment
  • Develop opportunities for their employees to achieve their career dreams
  • Cultivate committed leadership

ABC-VA’s 2024 Top Performers

Balfour Beatty Etolin Strait Development Company Kwest Group, LLC Skanska Building, Inc.
Branch Builds Forrester Construction Lithko Contracting LLC Tecta America Zero Company
Brite Electric GovSolutions, Inc M.C. Dean, Inc. Telligent Masonry, LLC
Brothers Mechanical, Inc. Heartland Construction, Inc Mark Turner Construction, LLC TST Construction
Coakley & Williams Construction Helix Electric Power Design, Inc. VSC Fire & Security
ColonialWebb Contractors Henley Construction Co., Inc. Prospect Waterproofing Co. W.M. Jordan Company
Comfort Systems of Virginia, Inc. Hensel Phelps R. W. Murray Co. Warfel Construction Company
David Allen Company, Inc. Hoar Construction, LLC SAW Contracting Worth & Company, Inc.
Delaware Elevator, Inc. Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. Shapiro & Duncan, Inc.
Donohoe Construction Company JRC Mechanical, LLC


The ABC Top Performers lists identify the Top 250 Performers, Top General Contractors, Top Trade Contractors, Top Electrical Contractors, Top Plumbing/HVAC Contractors, Top Specialty Contractors and Top Performers by Market, all of which have earned the elite Accredited Quality Contractor credential. The Top Performers with Special Designations hold one or more special designations. The Top Performers were ranked by the number of hours worked in 2021, as reported in their 2022 STEP applications. The rankings also include lists of top-performing companies in 18 market segments, such as government, health care, infrastructure, military, retail, religious, high tech, airport and sports complexes.

View the 2024 Top Performers lists at

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 23,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 68 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at   

ABC Virginia Supports Proposed Sports Arena at Potomac Yards: Project Labor Agreement Unnecessary

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors – the Commonwealth’s leading trade association for merit shop contractors – applauds the efforts of Governor Youngkin, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, and JBG Smith to bring the Monumental Arena to Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Arena project will bring as many as 4,000 lucrative jobs to the area and provide an entertainment venue for Virginians and the region to enjoy for decades to come.

ABC Virginia encourages legislators to help deliver this opportunity and support Chairman Torian and Majority Leader Surovell’s Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority and Financing Fund legislation.

Legislators and the public should not be persuaded by misguided demands from construction unions claiming the arena must be built under a controversial and anti-competitive union-only project labor agreement.

In reality, when mandated through political means, PLAs discourage competition from the vast majority of Virginia’s qualified nonunion contractors and their workforce who are not affiliated with unions. More than 94% of Virginia’s construction workforce does not belong to a union, and PLA discrimination is particularly harmful to the region’s nonunion minority and disadvantaged businesses and employees. Likewise, research has found that PLA requirements can subject nonunion workers to wage theft on almost a third of their paychecks by forcing them to pay dues and benefit contributions into union health and welfare plans they receive no benefit from unless they join a union and become vested.

The arena project will deliver quality, high-paying jobs and contracting opportunities for union and nonunion construction workers and companies alike without a controversial PLA requirement. Virginia dollars should be invested in a manner that benefits all and not just the union workforce that represents less than 6% of the Commonwealth’s construction industry.

ABC Virginia encourages legislators to approve this legislation and partner with the team of Monumental Sports and Entertainment and JBG Smith to deliver the benefits of this project to the region.

Learn more about controversial PLAs at