Article was originally written for SCOAR's magazine, The Voice, and can be found here.
Simply put, there are not enough people choosing to become skilled craft professionals and joining the industry. And to make matters worse, 41% of the current construction workforce will retire in 2031. With our workforce already at a shortage, the industry needs to act quickly and offset this loss of experienced, highly skilled craft professionals.
How do we close the gap? By letting the industry lead. Through interacting with career and technical education (CTE) programs, the industry can advise, inform and serve these programs.
• Advise – Industry can advise programs to make sure they are staying relevant and current. This helps students learn valuable and up-to-date information that will prepare them for their professional careers.
• Inform – Industry can advise teachers and students about careers in construction and the skill sets required to enter the field. This will help students have a clear idea of how to get started in construction and what is expected of them.
• Serve – Industry can donate materials and tools to educational programs and can offer field trips and shadow opportunities for students. Industry involvement can play a critical role in the success of CTE programs.
Many craft professionals enter the field through CTE programs. These programs teach and train students on how to begin a career in construction and succeed. It is critical that industry helps programs flourish and provide mentorship and on-the-job training opportunities to students.
The Southeastern Construction Owners and Associates Roundtable (SCOAR) has a history of helping students get educated and trained to join the construction industry. But this year, they decided to take it a step further.
16 Years of Giving
For the past 16 years, SCOAR has raised money and given scholarships to students pursuing a career in the construction industry. Each year, the organization holds a golf and fishing tournament that serves as a fundraiser for several scholarships that are awarded to hardworking students.
In 2019, $38,5000 was raised and awarded to students at a scholarship banquet. The money, donated by contractors, owners and members of SCOAR, helps students afford tuition, books or anything they need as they pursue a career in the crafts.
This year, however, was a little different.
A New Approach
While SCOAR continued to help students looking to join the industry through scholarships, they also decided to award grants to CTE programs. This way, the committee can have a larger impact on students who want to join the industry.
When a scholarship is awarded to a student, the money goes to a single student who may or may not end up in a career in the industry.
However, when a grant is given to a CTE program, the money can influence anywhere from 10 to 50 students who are benefitting from an expanded program, new textbooks or new tools. Grants allow more people to benefit from SCOAR’s fundraising and there’s a greater chance that there will be students leaving these programs and entering the industry.
Additionally, when giving grants to programs, they are not only getting funding, but a relationship with the industry. For every grant given to a CTE program, SCOAR will connect the program with someone from their organization. This contact will help the program ensure that they are spending the money in the most effective way while also making a connection between industry and education.
This connection is critical when it comes to closing the skills gap. The more CTE programs and training facilities understand what industry needs, the more prepared students are for the future. Additionally, providing students with real connections to construction businesses and employees can help students solidify their path to a career in construction.
As of October, SCOAR has awarded two $4,500 grants to CTE programs. One was awarded to Bremen High School in Georgia and the other was awarded to Manatee Technical College in Florida.
Bremen High School, a public high school, hasn’t had any construction CTE courses in their curricula for 20 years. According to the Bremen principal, Tim Huff, the school will begin offering electrical courses beginning in fall of 2019, thanks to the SCOAR grant.
When Bremen was awarded the grant, they were connected with Debbie Dickinson, CEO of Crane Industry Services. As a member of SCOAR, Dickinson helped Huff bring the construction program back to his school. Under her advice, Bremen will offer a program that gives a safety-based knowledge with a focus on employability. As an industry owner, she knew that this is the most important skill for students to possess in the industry.
According to Dickinson, it is a lot of work to get a program like this off the ground. The school had to decide which track to take, hire a teacher, and get tools and materials for the program. However, Dickinson believes that the program will impact a lot of students and their futures, as well as be sustainable for the school and surrounding businesses.
After receiving this help from SCOAR, the school and Dickinson worked with local businesses, the local Chamber of Commerce and the community to get the class in the curricula and on students’ schedules.
Both Huff and Dickinson are excited for the future of the program.
As SCOAR continues to roll out their grant program and see the successes of working directly with CTE programs, it will refine the process. In the future, SCOAR will continue giving grants and connecting industry with CTE programs to impact as many students as they can.
Though the future is turning toward grants, SCOAR won’t be getting rid of the scholarship program. They don’t want to replace one program with another, but rather want to expand their reach and keep connecting with the next generation of craft professionals.