By KERRY SMITH, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
Organizations like the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council are approaching students at younger and younger ages to introduce them to the possibility of pursuing a construction career.
Scott Byrne, St. Louis regional director of the Carpenters, says recruiting – and translating the trades to skills and experiences that ring true for elementary and middle school students – is what it’s all about.
“The days of standing behind a table at a high school jobs fair are long gone,” said Byrne. “Today we’re communicating with students beginning in second and third grade, teaching them how to build a birdhouse and a doghouse and showing them what building with their hands is all about.”
Another innovative entry the Carpenters has made is building relationships nationwide with high school career counselors and mathematics instructors. Byrne says the regional council is currently integrating real-world math skills building in 114 high schools across Missouri.
“Our international union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, created career connections, a component that offers math curriculum that’s very practical and useful in the field,” he said. “For example, rather than teaching theoretical geometry, we’re teaching students how to learn the Pythagorean Theorem so they can understand how to lay out a building very quickly. We’re working alongside talented mathematics teachers, showing them a real-world way to apply lessons in geometry, trigonometry and calculus through the context of construction practices.”
Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, says communicating regularly with high school guidance counselors is also critical. “Students and their parents need to hear that there is another real option out in front of them as an alternative to a four-year college education,” Turmail said. “It’s bonkers that many K-12 students still are not hearing about the pathway through a construction career track. When we speak with our members and their AGC chapters across the U.S., one of the subjects that comes up every time we discuss workforce development is reaching guidance counselors.”
Idaho passed legislation that requires guidance counselors to present vocational education as an option, he said.