What do you want to be when you grow up? This classic question is most creatively answered in childhood and sometimes sticks with people into adulthood. In a world saturated with technology, social media, drones, virtual reality and instant gratification via Amazon Prime, we often wonder if a career in construction—although an incredibly sustained profession—will continue to be attractive to young people.
Along with our community partners, GLY is dedicated to finding ways to educate and inspire students from elementary to high school about careers in construction. Senait Habte, Assistant Director of the UW Women’s Center Making Connections Program, puts it perfectly: “It’s one thing to hear about a certain career, it’s another to engage with it. When students have the opportunity to participate in career-related activities at site visits, their sense of belonging in those spaces increases.”
The future of our industry relies on the interest, knowledge, skills and creativity of our future builders. For this reason, informing students about the spectrum of skills and roles required in construction is a commitment we have made to our community in hopes of inspiring a future in young people that they may not have considered otherwise.
To get a better grasp on the mission and impact of some of the outreach programs in the area, we talked to a few community partners including Senait Habte and the AGC Education Foundation’s Executive Director Diane Kocer, as well as GLY’s Human Resources Director Jane Mounsey.
TELL US ABOUT THE UW WOMEN'S CENTER MAKING CONNECTIONS PROGRAM.
Senait Habte, UW Women’s Center: The UW Women’s Center Making Connections Program is a four-year college readiness program that aims to create a pathway for underrepresented students into higher education and STEM career fields. Making Connections provides students and their families with a wide range of support, from academic tutoring, to mentorship, career site explorations and college visits. Since 2007, 100% of Making Connections' students have been accepted to college. Making Connections is a key component of the UW Women’s Center’s mission to ensure equitable access to education for all people.
WHAT ARE THE AGC EDUCATION FOUNDATION CONSTRUCTION ADVENTURE CAMP + BUILD YOUR FUTURE PROGRAM ALL ABOUT?
Diane Kocer, AGC: Our mission is to develop and promote construction careers. The programs we offer are intended to inspire education and career pathways that provide opportunities for various age groups, interests, and skill sets. The industry faces challenges in communicating these career pathways in a meaningful way to educators, parents, and students. The knowledge about the varied construction careers is limited and lacking accurate information.
Construction Adventure Camp allows young people to engage their natural curiosity to discover the wonders of working with their hands, to create something that instills pride, to imagine designing buildings in their city and to explore varied uses of advanced technology. These outcomes are tied to jobs that people in their communities might have in the construction industry.
Build Your Future is designed for rising seniors in high school. Held in June, the one-week, exploratory adventure inspires students to pursue Construction Management [CM] at one of the three state universities: University of Washington, Central Washington University and Washington State University. General contractors inspired us to create this program after recognizing that while many high school students are introduced to STEM fields, the curriculum lacks any focus on CM. CM is a STEM field which typically attracts the same type of student interested in engineering and architecture. Build Your Future has successfully attracted more students—not to mention, a larger diversity—to the CM programs.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO INTRODUCE CAREERS IN CONSTRUCTION TO YOUNG PEOPLE AT THIS POINT IN THEIR LIVES?
Jane Mounsey, GLY: Most young people have no idea about the complexity, sophistication and opportunity that is involved in a career in the construction industry. Whether it’s entering our profession by way of the construction trades or construction management, our industry features cutting edge technology, world class business practices, job growth and stability, plus some of the most generous pay and benefit packages you could ever hope to find. Sadly, many long-standing stereotypes about construction work persist, and it is our mission to dispel those myths every chance we get!
Diane: We want to engage their curiosity. Today, too many young people spend excess time with electronic devices and have little exposure to working with their hands. We discovered that the majority of people who enter the construction field refer to days during their youth when they played with Legos, built projects with a family member, or participated in wood shop classes. The earlier we teach children to create and build, the earlier the opportunities are afforded to plant the seeds about working in the construction field. It is also important to teach young people about the importance of math skills and that math can be fun. We teach them math through basic blue print reading and measuring wood for birdhouses, and we teach fractions as they measure additives to make concrete for paving stones.
Senait: Career explorations and site visits are essential because they open students’ eyes to career opportunities they may have never seen and give students the confidence to envision themselves in those settings.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT VISITING A CONSTRUCTION SITE WITH STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN THE MAKING CONNECTIONS SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAM THIS PAST SUMMER?
Senait: It was great for students to see the construction site alive and full of activity and for them to have access to spaces where most people can’t go. GLY also did an excellent job preparing a diverse panel of women to speak with us. It was powerful for our students to see that people who looked like them were running the show.
HOW DO JOBSITE TOURS ADD TO STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING ABOUT CONSTRUCTION?
Jane: Getting a look behind the scenes of a major jobsite is a once in a lifetime experience for young people. To witness firsthand the magnitude of what we do every day is awe inspiring: from the operation of our massive cranes, to pouring football-field sized decks of concrete, to coordinating the complex transformation of design into a real life building, all of it is nothing short of amazing. The incredibly smart people behind these accomplishments serve as outstanding role models to the youth who get the chance to interact and learn from them on these tours.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT YOU HOPE THEY TAKE AWAY FROM THESE EXPERIENCES?
Jane: That a career in construction will leverage their curiosity, challenge them intellectually, and provide a lifetime of stable, highly fulfilling employment, no matter which of the many paths within our industry that they choose to follow.
Diane: Again, we want to inspire curiosity. Most good construction workers, whether they are project managers or skilled tradespeople, are naturally curious. They like to build and often wonder about the creation of structures.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH PROVIDING THESE OPPORTUNITIES TO ELEMENTARY + HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS?
Diane: My favorite aspect of our programs is witnessing the transformation of the students. They arrive on the first day of the program as skeptics and leave with wonder and an open mind. For the younger students, we have numerous quotes from parents telling us that their child suddenly asked if they could work in the garage with a power tool to create a project. For the high school students, it is as simple as a quote stating, “I had no idea that these careers existed.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN BUILD YOUR FUTURE HAS BEEN OVER THE YEARS?
Diane: By far, the biggest takeaway is the students’ realizations that Construction Management is an actual degree program that results in 100% internship placements during their junior year and multiple job offers with high paying entry level salaries upon graduation.
Click here for more information on how to get involved with the UW Women’s Center Making Connections Program. To learn more about AGC Education Foundation’s Construction Adventure Camp, Build Your Future, and many more career development programs, click here.