On April 8th, Construction Citizen had the privilege to attend Texas Construction Career Initiative (TCCI) and Build Your Future’s (BYF) 2015 High School Construction Career Day at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall in San Antonio, Texas. Over 1,100 students and chaperones from the San Antonio area and West Texas had the chance to meet with over 50 exhibitors and construction professionals. Exhibitors included craft companies specializing in plumbing, heavy equipment, glass, drywall, and roofing; institutes offering programs in construction such as Texas A&M, Texas State Technical College, and Construction Careers Academy; power tool producers DeWalt and Hilti; and non-profit construction associations such as Hispanic Contractors Association, National Association of Women in Construction, and Air Conditioning Contractors of America San Antonio.
Marek Workforce Development Training Coordinator Arthur Ehmling
Students were able to test power tools, learn about safety and the importance of harnesses while being hoisted in the air, speak with representatives from university construction programs, and test the latest in construction technology, such as testing drones equipped with video camera providing a live feed. Event organizer, Stacy Gunderson of TCCI and Marek, stated that she looks forward to this event every year because of the energy in the room and getting to see the construction industry come together and share in a common goal.
Marek employee showing a student how to install drywall
Reflecting on the success of the event, Stacy discussed getting an email from Bryan Heacker, a teacher at Warren High School, who remarked,
"The Construction Career Day is becoming an annual treat that both the students and I look forward to now! I feel very privileged to have be included on the invite list and hope to remain on it each year. With only one field trip allowed for my students each year, this is awesome and very rewarding.”
"It's teachers and students that make the event worthwhile, and receiving feedback like Bryan Heacker's, will have us continue to make sure that this is an annual event," Stacy explained.
The career day also included a skilled trades competition, where six high school teams were judged on their skills in plumbing, wall building and dry walling, electrical wiring, and safety. The competition was reminiscent of the National Craft Championships that we saw in early March.
For the competition, students had to build a bathroom with working plumbing and electrical. In preparation for the competition, the students were sent building plans and materials a week ahead of time. They were instructed to have a platform, back wall, and roof built before the day of the competition, and to construct a second wall and install the plumbing in wiring.
Construction Careers Academy Skilled Trades competitors working on their second bathroom wall
Mike Byrnes, an instructor at Construction Careers Academy in San Antonio, provided some background information on how his students were chosen and how the students prepared for the competition.
“I asked for volunteers and chose from them. I wanted to include a female, a carpentry student, a plumbing student and an electrical student. The team consisted of three juniors and one senior...My plumber and electrician actually did not practice as this was part of their curriculum. The carpentry students just built the pre-build sections as practice. I coached them on strategies more than the actual build.”
The competition proved to be a great learning experience for all of the young competitors. The winners received construction tools from sponsor, DeWalt, as well as some Bluetooth speakers.
Brandeis High School students hard at work
The prizes were presented by former world champion boxer Jesse James Leija. Leija spoke to the students about the importance of being the best that they could be.
“You need to be dedicated to do your best, because there is someone behind you who wants to take your place and to master what you’re doing...It does not come easy. It takes real work...You get your skill and you learn that skill. You will always have a job. You will always have work. You will always be able to support yourself...You have to be committed to be the best.”
Jesse James Leija (center) poses for photo with Skilled Trades Competition winners
San Antonio’s Mayor Ivy R. Taylor was also in attendance. Ms. Taylor gave a speech on the value of the construction industry and that the mission of the Texas Construction Career Initiative is to be a “resource to students, to connect them to opportunities.” She told the students that by being at the Construction Career Day, the students were “not just thinking about their future, but taking the steps to get there.”
Mayor Ivy R. Taylor speaking to Construction Career Day students
The goal of TCCI and BYF’s Construction Career Day was to highlight the importance of the construction industry and to create awareness for the many job opportunities. Students were able to take away information on different trades and they were able to get a hands on approach. Stacy Gunderson remarked, "We could not have pulled off this event without our sponsors, exhibitors, and our volunteers, and I would like to thank them for their attendance and everything that they do for this event." The career fair and skilled trades competition is only going to grow, and we look forward to next year’s event!