A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

CMEF and Construction Industry Professionals Facilitate the 2018 Girls Construction Camp

For the past few months, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Office has been posting News Releases highlighting Comptroller Glen Hegar’s Good for Texas Tour which is celebrating Women in the Workforce.  “From the factory floor to the boardroom, from retail trade to manufacturing, women make up nearly half the Texas workforce,” Hegar said. “And more women than ever are leading a diverse range of enterprises.  In the past 20 years, the number of women-owned companies in Texas has risen by 146 percent.  Today, nearly a million Texas women own their own businesses.”  Current data indicates that nearly half of the 12.4 million jobs in Texas are held by women.

In an effort to inspire an interest in young women to consider a career in the Construction Industry, the Construction & Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF) and Construction Industry professionals facilitated the 2018 Girls Construction Camp at CMEF’s Performance Verification Center.  On February 28th, 31 eighth grade female students joined by eight chaperones spent the day with 24 volunteers to experience a fun-filled day participating in numerous hands-on skills that are performed daily by craft professionals.  The students and chaperones represented five ISDs and nine intermediate/junior high schools.  We invited female students from within the school districts of the high schools that we sponsor.  Based on a set number of students, it was at the discretion of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director of each school district to determine which junior highs were invited.  While we knew we could not invite all junior high schools to participate, we did want representation from both sides of the Houston Ship Channel.

Since the Construction Industry needs to continue to build a safe, skilled, and sustainable workforce, the Girls Construction Camp was designed to primarily provide the students a career awareness experience in the Construction Industry.  This was accomplished through guest speakers, interaction with craft professionals, and hands-on activities relative to carpentry, dry wall installation and finishing, engineering, equipment operations, pipefitting, and safety.  The event was for eighth grade female students making their respective decisions with their parents in selecting a high school Graduation Endorsement Plan and Career Pathway. Most of the volunteers who led the various sessions were women in the Construction Industry.  We wanted the students to see that they too can become the highly skilled, Construction Industry Professionals of the future.  By the close of the event, we wanted the students to have a new awareness and appreciation for the Construction Industry and the vast diversity of great career opportunities that await them in the future.  Hopefully, the information they gleaned from participating in the hands-on events coupled with the printed material they received will assist them making a decision on selecting a Graduation Endorsement Plan and Career Pathway that they may not have otherwise considered.

I received several emails from various administrators after the students returned to their campuses:

  • Scott Davis, Principal of Deepwater Junior High School in Deer Park ISD, said, “Our girls could not stop talking about how much fun they had today.  What a wonderful experience for them.  Thank you so much for including our girls!” 
  • Renea Dillion, Director of Career & Technical Education for Goose Creek CISD, commented, “Thank you Steve, and every one of your volunteers, for creating this experience for our students!” 
  • Tanya Hagar, Executive Director of Career & Technical Education for Pasadena ISD, stated, “Steve, Thank you for inviting us to participate!  The students had a wonderful time with the hands-on activities and learned a great deal about the vast opportunities available to them in the construction industry.  Three of them who had committed to other pathways at CTHS have asked to change to the construction pathway because of this camp!  What an immediate, positive impact you and your volunteers made!” 
  • David Berrier, Director of Career & Technical Education for Deer Park ISD, called to inform me that on the bus ride to take the students back to their campuses, all nine students planned to change their ninth grade schedule and sign up for the Principles of Construction course.  In his email Mr. Berrier wrote, “Hey Steve, the camp was great!  Thanks for all the hard work to help educate students about the various pathways that are available to them in the construction field.”

One of the chaperones asked me, “What do you and the volunteers get out of this event?”  My response was “We receive tremendous joy and fulfillment seeing the students successfully engaging in the various hands-on activities that they may have never thought they would participate in.  Additionally, it is most gratifying to know that we had an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of each student.”

In the Construction Industry it is well known that projects cannot be completed alone, and this event could not have been possible without the support of the following companies and their respective volunteers:  Brock, Brown & Root, CMEF, Dow, Jacobs, KBR, Marek Brothers, Performance, Turner Industries, and Southern Safety.  Again, I express my appreciation and thanks to each volunteer and to the members of the Girls Construction Camp Task Force who spent many months planning and preparing for the event.  Girls Construction Camp Task Force Members this year were Francis Hernandez (Jacobs), Krista Sayre (Marek Brothers), Carla Thompson (Turner Industries), Donna Sandlin (CMEF), and myself (CMEF).

As the day concluded, each camper left not only with company literature, a tool box, personal protection equipment, and the items they built themselves, but with a more in-depth understanding of the exciting careers that await them within the Construction Industry.  What an exemplary affirmation was exhibited on the success of the Girls Construction Camp when one student stood up on behalf of all of the students at the Closing Session and expressed heart-felt words of appreciation and gratitude to the volunteers for what they learned from them during the day!