For many of us, it’s back to school time, either as students, parents or teachers. And that means adorable first day of school photos (if they are teenagers, we might get lucky and they’ll smile) and maybe a slight sigh of relief at sending our kids back to the care of wonderful, dedicated and the most patient of humans, teachers. For educators, it’s their chance to help shape the minds of students and prepare them for the future.
Aside from the aforementioned group though, there’s another set of people who are affected as well — members of the construction industry. School starting also impacts those in the industry because, to make an impression on the little sponges soaking up knowledge, industry representatives HAVE to be involved. How can you do that you may wonder? Participate. Participate. Participate.
Are there career days happening near you? Represent your company or organization. Do you have extra materials left over from a job site (even the smallest thing) or books leftover from a training class? Donate them to your local school. Have the chance to sit on the school’s advisory council? Take it; education institutions need to know about the employment opportunities available for their students to best prepare them.
Let’s take a look at a few best practices involving each of these ways to participate.
Anybody having a conversation with a teenager knows that they can be difficult to reach. Try too hard to communicate by using slang words that you looked up from Urban Dictionary and you’ll get ignored for being cringy (a word I hear all too often from my 14-year-old). Be too stuffy and formal and you’ll lose them based on a lack of interest. Our best advice? Be honest, straightforward and let the facts talk for themselves.
Stacey Holsinger, marketing manager at Shapiro & Duncan, shares great tips she’s learned from participating in career days in “The Challenge of Attracting Students to a Career in the Construction Industry”:
1. Challenge them.
2. Know your audience.
3. Bring innovative technology.
4. Provide a success story.
5. Bring handouts.
Not sure what to bring? Check out Build Your Future’s resources and request a free sample bag. A popular item with students are the craft professional trading cards — and they help start a conversation. Many students have no idea of the salary ranges available in a construction career or that they don’t need a four-year degree to achieve success. The cards outline this information as well as help show the specific appeal of each craft position.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a meet the teacher night, or open house at the school, and seen a list of basic materials that teachers need. From tissues to markers to Ziploc bags, the requests I’ve seen this year seem so basic, so necessary, it can be hard to believe that it’s not already provided. But there are no funds available and it’s up to teachers to find ways to buy these materials. A Scholastic survey found that teachers reported spending $530 a year of their own money, with that number rising for high poverty schools. Many teachers told NPR that the number was actually closer to $1,000 or higher, and the materials they purchase aren’t just office supplies or decorations — teachers are having to buy BOOKS in order to teach our kids.
In career and technical education (CTE) classes, where carpentry, welding and other construction crafts are found, the funds are even lower. In 2016, only 1.7 percent of the Department of Education budget was assigned to CTE and 96 percent of these educators reported that their program budgets either declined or were stagnant. With the recent signing in July 2018 of the Strengthen Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bill reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, we can hope to see improvement in the future for CTE program funding. However, that does not negate the necessity of industry support.
Check with your local schools and see what they need. Not sure who to contact? Use NCCER’s Connection Map to make connections with educators in your area. Books, tools or materials could make the world of difference to a class near you.
School advisory councils are comprised of various segments of the community, such as administrators, business or industry members, parents, teachers, etc. Joining a local school advisory council gives you the opportunity to have a voice and speak up about the needs of the workforce. Arizona provides a good example of how an advisory council works and why it’s necessary. The Arizona Department of Education recognized the major shortage of craft professionals in their state and unified its CTE programs under an industry-supported advisory council to address program and workforce needs. Local programs need you to commit your time and expertise in supporting career pathways for their students. Use NCCER’s Connection Map to also find schools that may have an opening — an option on NCCER’s Connection Map lets educators list an interest in having an industry representative sit on their school’s advisory board.
While we may be elated or sad to see school started again (or maybe just annoyed at the traffic), we have all been there as impressionable students wondering what the future holds. It’s up to us, as a community, to ensure students learn about all the opportunities available, to make sure that they know construction isn’t just digging ditches and to show the skills needed to work in the construction industry.