The construction industry is constantly fighting to find their way into high schools across the country to show students the opportunities that a career in construction holds and build the skilled workforce needed to keep up with the demand of labor.
When ABC New Mexico Chapter’s Carla Kugler began her job as Education & Safety Director, she set her mind on finding ways to successfully increase interest among the students at local high schools. Only in its second year, the program, Running Start, has already had a positive impact on the students involved, landing two with jobs at ABC member companies.
“We want every high school student to know that they can take a construction course at ABC,” said Kugler. “We hope that with this program, we’re making an impact in our community and on society.”
Kugler started her search by reaching out to the local community college and ended up at a meeting with the school district’s superintendent where she pitched the idea of getting high school students to take construction classes at ABC’s facilities. Although, this wasn’t the first time the superintendent had heard of ABC. He had previously worked with the ABC Heart of American chapter who implemented a similar program and knew right away that getting ABC involved in the New Mexico school system could help students find a career path.
The next step involved ABC New Mexico reaching out to the mayor of Albuquerque who had coincidentally just received a grant from the state to start a program that would offer high school students the opportunity to sign up for industry-taught and industry-developed classes ranging from health care, taught at a local hospital, to construction, led by ABC New Mexico and taught at their facility. The classes represent five different industries and give students both high school and college credits.
Working with the community college which teaches NCCER curriculum, ABC was able to build a class for the 2012-2013 school-year of about 20 students who spent one class period, two-times a week at ABC New Mexico’s facility learning the basics of construction with a hands-on approach.
In addition to learning the basics of the trades, students who join the construction class are taken on trips to visit ABC member job-sites, taught interviewing skills by ABC associate members, and hear from industry professionals who are brought in as guest speakers. Once the course is completed, students walk away with the first semester of an NCCER accredited apprenticeship under their belts.
While some students may choose to move forward with a different career path, others have decided construction is the right fit for them. In particular, one student who was moving to California reached out to the ABC New Mexico chapter after completing the course asking for the contact information of an ABC apprenticeship program he could get involved with near his new home.
Another student, Maria Cruz, recently sent a letter that ran in the Albuquerque Journal explaining her gratitude for the opportunity to learn not only about the construction field, but important life lessons, including seeing that females can succeed in a highly male-dominated industry.
“Not only did I earn extra high school credit, I now have 3 college credits,” said Cruz. “Certainly my confidence in my ability to make it in the “real world” has significantly increased.”
The class, which is free of charge to the students, including the textbooks which are provided, is in its second year with hopes to continue to grow and inspire more students to choose a career in construction. With a graduation rate of its students at 76 percent–
“We’re put a lot of effort into it and it shows,” said Kugler. “The program has exceeded my expectations and we hope to expand the number of students we reach each year.”