Jeff Wanna started as an apprentice at Olympic Companies SD over 16 years ago, and now leads projects across the region as a foreman.

The work came very easy for Wanna. A Job Corps experience in Salt Lake City helped him shape his path into the trades by being trained in welding and carpentry. “I have always clicked with [the work that I do]. I have always liked the work,” he said. When he came back to Sioux Falls to work with Olympic Companies at 19, like most apprentices, there was a lot of learning and on-the-job training from the foremen and journeymen he worked with.

“I was an instructor when he was just starting at Olympic, so I had him as a student during his apprenticeship. He’s very smart—which helps a lot—and he’s naturally a person of high integrity and honesty. He already had those qualities then, so he just needed more experience to keep climbing that leadership ladder,” said Todd Tilberg, Field Superintendent & Safety Director, Olympic Companies SD.

Now as a foreman, Wanna mentors and leads his crew on projects that span stadiums, big box stores, hospitals, and schools. “It’s a little bit of a different world now—you have to pick your crew for the job, teach and motivate them, and get the work done. You actually have to help the guys and push them along,” he said. The foreman has been reading and learning about how to work with diverse groups of people as he grows into his leadership role. “Olympic has helped me with leadership and professional development classes like the Dale Carnegie ones, and I read a bunch of different books that teach you how to work with people.”

“Jeff is working extremely hard to improve his leadership skills and he’s come a long way since he’s been running work. I trust him, which is important to me as the Field Superintendent because they’re in charge of pretty good budgets and the livelihood of other personnel that work for them,” said Tilberg. “Every job Jeff does, he gains experience and improves my experience in teaching people to be good leaders or foremen.”

He believes that as a foreman, he still needs to have an open mind on how things work. “I can tell my crew this is how you’re going to do the job, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones doing their part of the job. If they think there’s a different, faster, or better way to do it, I tell them to let me know.”

Wanna’s drive to build on his leadership skills and career at Olympic has now led him to start superintendent training with his supervisor. He hopes that once the union starts its annual training in Las Vegas, he will be able to attend to officially kick this off and be closer to becoming a superintendent in the near future.

When asked what he’d say to someone curious about working in construction, Wanna said: “It’s a lot easier than you think it is. You get some bad days, but most of the work is pretty easy and can be quite fun. It’s really satisfying at the end of a long day when you look back at something you’ve built. You get to do a lot of different things through the job.”