Layout Carpenter Drew JansmaWhen Drew Jansma was offered a position with Granger Construction as a layout carpenter midway through her four-year carpentry apprenticeship program, she seized the opportunity even though she wasn’t quite sure what that role would entail at the time.

Drew had worked for two other companies since starting her program at the Carpenters and Millwrights Apprentice Training Center in Wayland, MI, both of which involved interior construction work like cabinetry installation.

“I had to ask around to find out what a layout carpenter did, and to learn about Granger,” said Drew, “and everyone said it was a great opportunity, so I went for it.”

Upon arrival at Granger, Drew was assigned to the Michigan State University Tom Izzo Football Building Expansion project where she says she learned the basics of layout and how to operate the newest tools and technologies of the trade.

In short, a layout carpenter helps to lay out certain aspects of the building being constructed, and getting this first step to construction right plays a huge role in the overall success of a project. The builders and installers may get all the attention at the end of a glamorous project, but in reality, the finished product is only as good as the layout that precedes it. That’s because the accuracy of the layout helps determine the quality of the installation, not to mention keeping the project on schedule and budget.

Like everything else in the construction industry, technology plays a crucial role in the layout process. While traditional woodworking tools like tape measures, saws and hammers will always be part of the toolkit, robotic layout systems have become the new norm for today’s layout carpenters.

“When I first started, I had no idea what a robotic system was or how to read drawings,” said Drew, but with a lot of guidance from her peers she has become very proficient and confident in her new role.

Because a layout specialist has to coordinate with many of the other trades on a project, Drew said she was initially nervous about how those interactions would go.

Layout Carpenter Drew Jansma“It can be somewhat intimidating when you’re one of only a few females out there on the job,” she said. “At times it can feel like some people don’t take me seriously or think I have the knowledge or skill to do a good job; you feel underestimated, but now I’m more confident in my role.”

According to Tom Owens, Director of Field Operations at Granger, that is an understatement.

Drew Jansma
In 2023, Drew Jansma (pictured left) was awarded a Granger Construction Outstanding Performance Award.

“If you ask those who have worked closely with Drew, they will tell you she is more than capable”, he said. “She’s still learning like anyone who moves into a new role, but she asks a lot of questions and takes pride in her work. Drew often does the work of four other people,” he said, “which is why we have seasoned carpenters in the company requesting her on their jobs. She has an excellent work ethic and a positive attitude.”

Owens noted that Drew has come a long way in her time at Granger and he expects she will be leading her own crews before long. She currently leads an apprentice peer group that meets once a month to talk and learn from each other and provide a forum to have their voices heard.

“It really helps everyone get to know each other from within the company who may not be working with one another on one job but may end up together on a future job,” says Drew. “It also helps provide a better overall understanding of the different trades and their roles on projects.”

Drew said she has not heard of other companies doing this, and it shows commitment and that Granger values the trades and wants to hear their ideas and concerns.

When asked why she chose to pursue a career in carpentry, Drew said she tried the college route, but after two years she said she realized the classroom structure and the programs offered were not what she wanted.

“Now that I have a year and a half of experience as a layout carpenter at Granger, it feels good to be confident at what I do and be able to work with other carpenters and trades and do my job well,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot since joining Granger. I’ve had great support from the people I work with.”

Drew said she loves working in the construction industry because she enjoys the physical, hands-on work and being able to see the tangible results of that work.

Drew is currently working at the $30 million Gun Lake Casino Hotel Structural Concrete project in Wayland, MI that involves construction of a 17-level concrete structure for the hotel and a 6-story structure for the adjoining Aquadome. She said one of the most surprising aspects of the construction industry is how fast things move.

“The hotel addition at Gun Lake Casino is the first construction job I have seen from the very beginning,” she said. I was the first carpenter on the jobsite when they started digging, and it has been amazing to see a giant mud puddle turn into a 17-story hotel in a little more than a year.”

As for her most memorable moments in the industry to date, Drew says that’s an easy one. It was the first time she had to put on a harness and climb up a 20-foot column form at her current project to shoot down into the corners with the robot. And again, as they were working on columns in the Aquadome structure when she had to climb out of the boom lift and stand on top of a 45-foot tall column to shoot in the corners.

“I never knew I was signing up for that when I became a carpenter,” she said. “There was definitely some fear at first, but now I can stand on top of an elevator core 200 feet above the ground hanging off the corner (tied off, of course) with little hesitation.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.