By Dance Aoki
Karen Storts, 64, is the Mama Bear of many construction jobsites on the island.
She’s worked as a safety officer and a trainer throughout her 30-year career in construction, watching over the safety and professional development of the island’s growing workforce.
As the training administrator of dck Pacific Guam LLC, Storts coordinates the company’s apprenticeship program, a program that recruits laborers and construction workers with potential for success into a training program that demands participants complete thousands of hours of training at the Guam Contractors Association Trades Academy in Barrigada. She also oversees the recordkeeping for the safety and training departments.
Storts says she is qualified to teach any of the core curriculums at the GCA Trades Academy, but her expertise is in safety.
“For many years, I was out there in the jobsites talking to the guys, doing the little toolbox talks,” she says. “And hauling them off to the hospital if I needed to,” she adds with a laugh.
Her involvement with the academy has been an important part of her career, she says, and has “done wonders for the industry.”
The advice she gives to the apprentices who come through the program is to do their best and ask for more training.
“Let people know that you’re willing to learn,” she says.
dck Pacific Guam has gone more than three years without a lost time incident, a testament to the safety of its jobsites. The company also won a regional safety award last year.
When she started at dck Pacific Guam more than seven years ago, Storts was also responsible for reaching out to women-owned small businesses to partner with on projects funded by federal government grants. She says it is a requirement of these types of jobs to contract with businesses owned by women.
Throughout more than 30 years of her career in construction, Storts learned how valuable women are in the industry.
“Yes, there are a lot of men in construction, and that’s always been the way, but I also knew that if you really wanted to know what was going on, you could call the woman in the office, and she knew everything that was going on,” she says.
Storts is the vice president of the National Association of Women in Construction, an organization that celebrated National Women in Construction week during the first week of March.
Storts says she’s seen women’s roles expand in the industry, with many women now owning subcontracting businesses.
“A lot of unsung heroes, as far as [I’m] concerned, [are] the women in the office,” she says.
She’s very excited to see more women working on jobsites, and in administrative positions in the industry.
Although she’s not quite ready for it yet, Storts says she is coming into the time in her life where she needs to seriously consider retirement.
“It’s getting close enough that I’m starting to think,” Storts says. When the time comes, she says she would probably keep working.
“I haven’t really thought about doing anything else, so if I were retired, I would probably veer back toward safety and teaching,” she says.
She spent most of her career raising her son and three stepchildren, leaving little time or money for vacations. Now that her family is grown and is starting families of their own, she’s starting to create her “bucket list.”
“I’d like to do more [traveling]. Maybe that’s what I should put on my bucket list; I’d like to get in a car with a suitcase and just drive and see what’s on the road,” she says.
Her life outside of work is full of simple pleasures. As the daughter of a librarian, she can think of no more relaxing activity than engrossing herself in a good book, holding it in her hands and turning the pages one by one.
Training administrator, dck Pacific Guam LLC
Favorite vacation spot: Savannah, Ga.
Most useful professional resource: GCA Trades Academy
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate