Aaron Ware joined Haskell in 2009 as a temporary laborer, a guy who, in need of a life change, had migrated from one corner of the country to the other.
Ten years later, he is project superintendent on a 225-foot-tall building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, one of just three such facilities in the world, where the Jeff Bezos-funded company Blue Origin will test its rockets before blasting them into space.
Ware’s ascent through the ranks has been a testament to his determination and Haskell’s innovative team member development program as it strives to “Provide team members the best jobs of their lives.”
First, the determination.
Athletics were an integral part of life as Ware was growing up in Lacey, Washington. He earned ten varsity letters in four years at Timberline High School – four in baseball, and three each in football and basketball.
“There’s something about being on a team,” Ware said. “I learned how to interact with people. I learned how, when things aren’t going my way, I have to get over it and keep moving on. I will not fail. That’s my mindset. I will not fail.”
His approach and ability earned him a full-ride scholarship to play offensive tackle for Washington State University. But he chose to leave school after two years.
It’s a decision that today he calls “a horrible choice.” However, it also is a decision that led him to the construction trade, brought him from the Pacific Northwest to Florida’s First Coast and, ultimately, to Jim Leftwich’s jobsite.
In 2009, Leftwich, who worked more than 40 years for Haskell before retiring in 2018, was project superintendent on a $78-million University of North Florida student housing project. Ware was assigned by a labor service to Leftwich’s crew. He was just a temp.
But not for long.
“He so impressed me that I got permission from the labor service and hired him,” Leftwich said. “He’s always been a hard-working young guy. Real smart. It’s his attitude. ‘Whatever needs to happen is what I’m here to do.’”
Joining Haskell full-time gave Ware a unique opportunity to learn and advance in a way that might otherwise have been out of reach for someone without a college degree. He became a carpenter’s apprentice and began his journey through the company’s Permanent Craft Employee (PCE) program.
Established in 1976, when Haskell withdrew from its union labor agreement, the PCE program gives craft workers who are willing to travel full-time employment with paid vacation, retirement benefits, ESOP participation, and health insurance.
“What I like about it is it gives everybody an opportunity to prove themselves,” Ware said. “There are guys, obviously, who don’t want to be superintendents; they don’t want to be foremen. They just want to work, which is fine. But there also is that (message that), ‘If you want to grow, if you want to manage, there is an opportunity.”
Ware made the most of his chances. In less than ten years, he rose from laborer to carpenter’s apprentice … to carpenter … to carpenter foreman … to assistant superintendent … to superintendent.
“It takes a lot at Haskell to be named a superintendent,” said Mitch Becker, Haskell’s project director for the sprawling Blue Origin job. “He’s very well-respected by the guys who work for him, and he’s very well-respected by the project managers he works with. He’s very resourceful and a team player and very focused on the customer.
This is more than a job for him.”
Ware has been at work for Becker on the Blue Origin project since construction began in July 2016. His first assignment was as assistant superintendent on the 650,000-square-foot Orbital Launch System manufacturing facility. He led the crew charged with building intricate foundations able to accommodate equipment that would run with tolerances of tens-of-thousandths of an inch.
“When they were done, the vendor said he had never seen equipment foundations built as well as they’d been built by the Haskell team led by Aaron,” Becker said. “That’s a pretty good testament to him.”
Now his acumen, drive, and dedication have him directly in charge of construction on a different Blue Origin building, the Tank Cleaning and Testing facility, where the rigors of building for rocket scientists are every bit as demanding.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way — for his customers, for his team, for his bosses, or for his company.
“Haskell has given me so many opportunities – as an employee, but also as a young man, he said. “I think the world of Haskell. They’re my livelihood. They’re my family. They’re my future.
“Haskell’s an awesome company.”