Building the Next Generation of Construction Leaders
One of the most important challenges every industry faces is building the next generation of industry professionals. In order to build we must find, inspire, engage and coach young minds, and the ACE Mentor Program gives the architecture, construction and engineering industries a chance to do that.
The Twin Cities 2018 ACE chapter’s annual student competition program was presented March 20 at the University of Minnesota. Culminating months of planning, organizing and researching, nine high school student teams presented their solutions to this year’s industry challenge: To create a space that emphasized natural lighting, sustainability, education and community while designing and planning an urban revitalization of a riverfront block in downtown Saint Paul.
The Process of Building the Winning Model
The students and mentors spend months planning their approach and learning about various roles in the industry, beginning with research and brainstorming ideas which develop into an early concept and design. From there, they begin planning the logistics, estimation, schedules and refining their designs and elements into a mock up and presentation. “Our role as mentor is to guide them, we don’t provide a direct solution but we challenge them to think creatively and to try something new,” says John Nordby, an ACE mentor and assistant project manager with Kraus-Anderson.
The program not only allows for students to design and present a project, but it also builds a platform for them to learn and observe professional networking skills, presentation skills, and real-world work environments. “We gather weekly to discuss our hypothetical project but we also take time to tour local jobsites, firms and companies to give the students a chance to learn about all aspects of the industry and meet working professionals,” says mentor Rachel Yoder, KA project manager.
The Winning Presentation
Each team presented a unique approach to the challenge, with Irondale High School taking home the gold. The judges were particularly impressed that the team showed initiative and reached out to St. Paul city officials to gain real world insights and expectations. “The students are highly driven, energized and committed,” commented Seth Hausman, chair of the ACE Mentor Twin Cities chapter and managing director of KA Risk Innovation. “Every year they continue to surprise us with their innovations.”
However, Nordby says that his students from Washburn High School are the real champions, as they were awarded nearly half of the allotted scholarship money ($7,000 of $20,000 awarded).
Our future construction leaders have a real concern for environmentally friendly materials and practices, along with physical fitness opportunities and benefits to the local neighborhood. These elements can be found all throughout their presentations and models. Hausman comments that “we can definitely expect a green and bright future.”
“It’s encouraging to watch these high school students’ talents unfold as they participate in the ACE Mentor program; the impact of the program is so evident as you watch their progress from the beginning of the year to when they make their presentations,” said Al Gerhardt, President and COO of Kraus-Anderson and ACE Board member. Student interest in architecture, construction and engineering is growing, especially among minority groups. Nationally, 68% of participating students are minorities; 34% of those are women.
The ACE Mentor Program’s Success
ACE is helping to foster early interest in these professions, leading to education and career training. Nationwide, 80% of students who participate in the ACE program entered college intending to major in a STEM field; and 90% have indicated that ACE taught technical skills to prepare for college. “There are so many different roles and niches found within this industry,” says Jake Boerboon, KA project manager and vice chair of ACE. “From engineering to design to estimating to management the roles one can fill are endless and so are the career opportunities.”
The war for talent never ends, but the ACE program allows industry professionals to harvest and refine young minds and future leaders. No student walks home empty handed. Each takes home experience in teamwork, real world experience responding to an RFP; and a lifelong mentor and coach.