“Why did you go into construction?”
“Do you use a lot of math in your job?”
“Is there a lot of traveling in your job?”
“When do you get to see your family?”
“How do you know when you did a good job?”
Students quizzed the adults during “Building for the Future,” a career day event held May 7, 2014, in Minneapolis. Nearly 75 fifth graders from Jenny Lind Elementary School attended the event, gaining real-life insights about the construction professions from area men and women working throughout the industry. The event was held at University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Center.
The career day event is the brainchild of Valerie McKissack, president of Allied Electrical & Industrial Supply Company. In addition to Allied Electrical, participating construction professionals included 11 W/MBE businesses, MNDOT representatives and three area general contractors including Kraus-Anderson.
“It’s spring and this is such a busy time for everyone,” said McKissack. “I’m really proud to see how everyone took the time to participate.”
The all-day event included up-close demonstrations, discussions about starting and operating one’s own construction business, and most importantly, the chance to meet and talk to professionals working across a spectrum of construction careers, including specialty trades, jobsite superintendents, and business owners.
“It’s so important to capture kids’ imaginations early and make a connection in a non-fiction world,” said Aura Wharton-Beck, principal at Jenny Lind Elementary School. “These are real people sharing their experience. It speaks volumes when students can see a real live female owner and president of her own company. We’re rewriting the narratives for a lot of children.”
“The kids will never forget this experience; it’s coming alive for them,” agreed Lois Walker, business consultant with Allied Electrical and one of the event organizers. Allied worked with the school to provide curriculum to go with the event, challenging the business participants to create displays that were interactive and educational. The business community responded with creativity and enthusiasm, including touch screen technology, surveying equipment, demonstrations of painting and pneumatic riveting, and robotics. Most important was the human connection.
Participants agreed that the organization and preparation that went into the event really paid off. “The kids were really attentive and well-prepared,” said Kraus-Anderson Project Superintendent Eric Domino, who brought his tool belt, an iPad loaded with PlanGrid software and some other tools of the trade.
“We’re trying to close the opportunity gap for our students. What better way than to show the practical side of the subjects we’re teaching. This is science, math, and language arts in action,” said Principal Wharton-Beck.