Professional News

Construction Diversity Accelerator program back for 2nd year, now accepting applications

A photo from CDA's graduation.
A photo from CDA's graduation. Photo by Quisha Ray Photography.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 18, 2022) — The University of Kentucky, in partnership with Turner Construction, is once again hosting the Construction Diversity Accelerator (CDA) program. Classes will be held beginning March 7.

The CDA program, which began last year, is a 10-week program "designed to give minority-owned, women-owned and other underrepresented construction-related businesses the skills and tools needed to be competitive in the construction industry."

After the success of the 2022 program, the CDA program has received a Better Together grant for $10,000 from the Black Prosperity Initiative, the Blue Grass Community Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.  

"The University of Kentucky will expand the campus with over $2 billion dollars in construction projects over the next few years. We always have a need for various construction trades. Increasing our pool of diverse suppliers creates more competition and innovation and impacts our local economy," said Barry Swanson, UK chief procurement officer.

“We want to be intentional in creating opportunities for inclusion on construction projects at UK, but we also want to mentor diverse suppliers to find opportunities with other community partners like the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and Fayette County Public Schools. We are excited to partner with Turner Construction and with the Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center (KYPTAC) for year two of the CDA program," said Marilyn Clark, the supplier diversity manager for UK.

The CDA program is 10 weeks and will cover important topics like safety, site logistics, insurance, bonding, contracts, subcontracting, construction drawings and specifications, estimating, scheduling, bid and proposal preparation, construction accounting, certification and more. The program culminates in a mock bid project that calls on teams to present their proposals in front of a panel of expert judges. This weekly program will help businesses gain hands-on, experiential learning.

“We understand that in order to achieve greater equity and inclusion within our industry, we must proactively create ways for underrepresented firms to access business-building opportunities. We are looking forward to another year of the program and the enhancements we are putting in place to make an even greater impact. Kudos to Marilyn and her team at UK as well as the staff at KYPTAC for helping to activate our shared vision of creating a more intentionally inclusive economic ecosystem,” said Kristen Smitherman-Voltaire, community and citizenship manager at Turner.

The application deadline for the 2023 program is 5 p.m. EST, Jan. 27, 2023, however spots are limited. The application can be found here. Acceptance into the 2023 program will be communicated via the email address provided in the application by Friday, Feb. 3.

Former program participant and owner of the ARGC Construction Group, Alisia Richardson, had this to say about the program, “I have benefited from the UK/Turner construction CDA program in several ways. I was able to meet owners and leaders of other minority companies. I was able to collaborate with a group of contractors that are passionate about being successful in the construction industry. Lastly, but most importantly I was able to learn about contractor ethics and get answers to questions that I have been asking since I opened up my company in 2020.”

Classes will meet each week from 6-8 p.m. beginning March 7, 2023, and will take place at UK in The Cornerstone

“Our partnership with UK and Turner Construction aims to foster an inclusive and collaborative environment where our teams, clients and community members can participate and work together to increase equity and diversity in contracting,” said Nancy Brown, executive director of Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center (KYPTAC). 

Find opportunities with UK here:

Learn more about Turner here.

Learn more about KYPTAC consulting and training events at

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.