Preparing our future construction workforce
This blog post was originally published on Breaking Ground: the NCCER Blog, and was re-posted with permission.
Getting students excited about the field of construction not only helps build our future workforce, but it also motivates them to be more successful. In Nebraska, 99 percent of career and technical education students receive a high school diploma, proving that career and technical education is working in our state. Here are some examples of what we are doing at Schuyler Central High School in Schuyler, Nebraska, to lay the foundation for our students to develop successful careers in the construction industry:
Expose students to real-world construction careers.
A week does not go by where we are not talking about careers. I truly believe that you cannot start this process too early. We as teachers have failed when students leave our high schools with absolutely no career goals in mind or just go to college seeking business degrees until they know what they want to do. Here are some tips to help prevent this:
- Subscribe to weekly news briefs to stay on top of what is going on in the construction industry and pass that information along to your students so they are aware of career trends
- Have students take self-assessments to help them understand how their personalities connect with different careers
- Use social media to stay connected with former graduates who share some of what they are doing in their careers and show those posts to your students
- Monitor websites like the Department of Labor and Build Your Future to see which careers have the highest demand, and discuss the need for “H3” jobs: high skill, high demand and high wage
Hold students accountable to having positive employability skills.
Soft skills are the number one reason our students get fired. When our students work on site they are graded daily based on the following rubric:
- Arriving on time with needed tools
- Safely working and wearing personal protective gear
- Working together to accomplish tasks
- Utilizing appropriate communication
- Achieving daily progress completing tasks.
We also have students periodically conduct self-assessments to evaluate themselves and their daily efforts, along with how they think I would evaluate them. We then develop a plan to improve the areas in which they scored low.
Provide students with tangible skills and certificates that they can take with them.
Anytime you teach a class and can give students something tangible that they have earned, this adds value to that class. We all know that skills are a big part of the construction industry, and my students have many of these skills, which is why they leave my classroom with a 10-hour OSHA certification that is good for life. In addition, we are now working with NCCER to provide credentials for our students.
Help students develop purpose, passion and pride for what they do.
Over the past 16 years, my senior-level high school construction class has built houses for our community. The houses range from 1,000 square feet to over 1,700 square feet with full basements. Our students do most of the work, and it is really exciting to see their skill development throughout the project. They become very proud of the homes they build and beam with pride when they bring their families to our open house and show them around.
Promote the importance of your program.
Finally, we need to promote what we are doing in our classrooms to board members, community leaders and surrounding schools. We can accomplish this through news articles, word of mouth and using our former students as ambassadors for our program. Promoting their success validates our program. Over the years, I have had a number of teachers visit our school and begin to move in the same direction as our program.
While the strategies listed above are not a white horse riding in with a surefire answer, I can attest that these things have helped many of my students become successful. I am a construction guy, and promoting this career to students is what I am passionate about. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than having former students tell me how successful they have become. The construction industry and education must continue to recruit students into construction training programs. We can meet this need one student at a time.
About the Author
Jim Kasik is an NCCER-certified instructor and 27-year veteran skill and technical science teacher at Schuyler Central High School in Schuyler, Nebraska. He spent 21 years as the head wrestling coach at Schuyler Central High School and was recently inducted into the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame. Jim has a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Kearney State College, a master’s degree in secondary education from Wayne State College and a K-12 administration endorsement from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.