Since 2016, Millennials have been the largest generation in the U.S. labor force at over 56 million. As of 2019, millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimated form. The U.S. Census Bureau. The millennial force is still growing with a projection peak of 75 million in 2033 according to the Census Bureau. Gen Z is now the fastest growing generation in the workforce now being up to age 26. 

In 2021, we emphasized how embracing the future of the restoration industry was as imperative as ever. At a time when finding skilled workers, retaining labor and adopting new technology are still among the top challenges restoration companies face, the unique traits of Millennials and Generation Z pose great promise. Known for being passionate, innovative and driven, professionals 35 years old and younger continue to shape today’s workforce. For younger generations choosing to either forgo a college degree, or, add additional education sources to their degrees, there are many restoration and cleaning jobs that offer both a career path and lucrative future. 

No matter how millennials, Gen Z, or other future generations find themselves within the restoration industry, we want to acknowledge, celebrate and uplift them. 

Three years ago, the R&R team launched the Ladder Award with the goal of recognizing rising young professionals in restoration, who are blazing new trails with innovative leadership, ideas, and technological advancements. Ladder Award nominees can come from any background as long as they have had an impact within their company. Each nominee is expected to exhibit qualities such as leadership, career progress, community involvement, and a clear passion for the industry. Most importantly, nominees should exhibit evidence of high character, integrity, and care for their colleagues and clients. 

This year, 18 young restorers were nominated for the Ladder Award. Each nomination was carefully scored by a panel of industry judges and, of course, one rising young star rose to the top.


Meet 2023 Ladder Award Winner Andrew Dobson 

Andrew Dobson is one of three owners of SERVPRO of downtown Pittsburgh, also known as Team Dobson, and serves as general manager.

Katie and Andy Dobson

He started his career as a technician for SERVPRO of West Mahoning County and quickly rose to the ranks of a crew chief and then on to production manager. After five years at SERVPRO, he and his wife became the owners of SERVPRO of East Mahoning County in 2016.

Over the past seven years, Andrew's ownership group collectively now holds 19 SERVPRO franchises and is regarded as one of the top ten ownership groups in the SERVPRO system.

Andrew has attained triple master status for the IICRC and two years ago became a certified instructor for the IICRC and now operates his own training school, Certified Restoration Training, in Warren, OH. 

Andrew is technologically driven and process oriented. Having developed a hub and spoke model within the SERVPRO system, he is reshaping the model of franchise operations. His level of organization and attention to processes has lowered the barrier to entry for people looking for a career in the restoration industry. 

On top of everything else, Andrew is an avid storm goer, having worked at the last 10 or more hurricanes in the southern part of the US, as well as a number of local and regional catastrophes along the east coast. He is widely regarded as one of the most active storm participants within the system and can be counted upon for readiness and response. 

Andrew has authored and developed a novel, progressive style, of sales estimating that has been widely accepted throughout the network of SERVPRO franchisees. 

SERVPRO franchise ownership group

Andrew’s industry certifications and awards include:

  • Instructor: IICRC
  • Master Fire Restorer: IICRC
  • IICRC logo: Odor Control Technician
  • Ohio EPA: Asbestos Abatement Inspector
  • Asbestos Air Sampling Professional 
  • Ohio EPA: Asbestos Abatement Contractor/Supervisor
  • IICRC: Applied Microbial Remediation
  • This is only a short list of his industry certifications and awards as Andrews’s impressive list of accomplishments take up an entire page themselves.


Each One, Teach One 

Instructorship is Andrew’s passion, he not only teaches restoration classes, but also conducts financial training utilizing Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University curriculum.

Through his instructorship, he has applied himself to teach 'free of charge' in an effort to support and drive as many people to master status as possible. 

His teaching morphs into coaching, and this motivates those who are deciding on having a career in restoration. He is willing to mentor anyone who shows the desire and dedication to being their very best. This approach fosters an excellent work culture and shows employees that restoration can be a lucrative career, and not just a job. 

Andrew is not only a giver in the field of education but also many community-based initiatives. He has sponsored the largest breast cancer fundraiser in his region for the past four years. He has partnered with local high schools, universities, and hospitals with services at 'no charge,' and constantly provides large financial donations to support their cause. 

Dobson family

He has a Christian-based approach to his life which includes generous giving. He offers support to institutions that share in his belief and value system. Breast Cancer Treatment, Bella Women's Medical Center, and education are areas in which he and his wife Katie are most passionate.


In His Free Time  

Andrew enjoys spending his free time outside of work with his wife Katie and their 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. Andrew says his goal is to be a super dad. “I want to give my family the world, they are a huge part of what drives me every day.”



Meet our Runners Up

Kody Burwell

Kody Burwell
Vice President at BluSky Restoration Contractors

Kody joined the restoration industry eight years ago as a superintendent with HARBRO, a California restoration company. In five quick months, his operational excellence and positive influence within the team led him to a project director position with the company. After BluSky acquired HARBRO in 2020, Kody was promoted to the role of vice president leading the Valencia, CA team in early 2021. Since Kody’s takeover of the office, he has grown the branch from $14m in 2020 to now on course to exceed $30m in 2023. He has accomplished this feat by focusing first on his people and office culture and focusing second on maintaining high expectations and support.



Megan Sweeny

Megan Sweeny
Director of Administration at ServPro

Megan joined ServPro in 2015 as an office admin with no prior experience in the restoration industry. However, she quickly proved herself to be a remarkable individual who possesses a strong work ethic and an unwavering commitment to personal growth and professional development. Over the years, Megan has continuously sought to expand her expertise and become a true expert in the restoration field. She has diligently researched and educated herself on industry topics, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Her dedication and commitment to excellence led her to achieve the prestigious IICRC certifications in WRT (Water Damage Restoration Technician), FSRT (Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician), and AMRT (Applied Microbial Remediation Technician). These certifications further validate Megan's expertise and her commitment to staying at the forefront of industry knowledge and best practices.



Matthew Torres

Matthew Torres
Project Director at First Onsite Restoration

Matthew started with Maxons Restorations in 2018 as a Project Coordinator.   He quickly became one of the strongest performers in that role and was training new hires as they came in.  He became well versed in interacting with customers, clients, insurance representatives and building representatives while assisting on projects.  He was given the opportunities expand his knowledge with industry classes and certifications which lead him to running projects in the absence of the project manager.   In 2022 Matthew raised his hand to support the Canadian First Onsite team after a derecho hit the area and jumped into assist for about a month across the border.  Matthew cleared his desk, properly handed off projects and headed across the border in about 48 hours.  In 2023 Matthew was promoted to a Senior Project Manager (now Project Director).


Meet our Judges 

Katie Smith

Katie Smith
Owner of PHC Restoration in North Carolina 

Katie Smith, CR is the second generation owner of PHC Restoration in North Carolina, an independent company committed to making a positive impact on its team, customers and community. Passionate about servant leadership and building relationships, Katie plays an active role both inside of her company and within the industry. She currently serves as the President of the Restoration Industry Association, the oldest and largest non-profit, professional trade association dedicated to providing leadership and promoting best practices through advocacy, education & professional networking opportunities for the restoration industry.


Eric Sprague

Eric Sprague
Owner of Super Tech University 

Eric Sprague has more than 25 years of experience managing teams in the home services industry. Eric was formerly a VP of Operations at a global manufacturing company and owner of a cleaning and restoration company. Now, Eric is Owner and Director of Education at Super Tech University, a company which trains technicians and managers soft skills for all home service verticals. In his spare time, Eric is the Co-Host of the Blue Collar Nation podcast. 


Travis Coy

Travis Coy
Educator at Firehouse Education 

Travis is a 21 year veteran in the restoration industry. He started his career in his family owned restoration company when he was just 16. His passion is helping people that have been struck by disaster and guiding them thru the process. He has experience in working CAT losses with a focus on fire damage and content restoration. Travis currently works with his parents at Firehouse Education where he is an educator who teaches hands on restoration classes and is the founder of the Triple T podcast where he focuses on helping restoration technicians navigate the complexities and nuances of processing restoration jobs with a focus on fire damage restoration.