In order for students to succeed, it’s important to prepare them for the ever-evolving professional world, which means not only higher education preparedness, but also career readiness. Today, more than ever, students are bombarded with endless opportunities and decisions that will shape their future careers—and it can be difficult to maneuver the variety of options available.
A major focus of today’s educators and mentors is to improve graduation rates and provide opportunities for students to learn about career opportunities early on and enable a smooth transition to postsecondary success.
Career Technical Education (CTE) is an educational strategy focused on providing students with the academic and technical knowledge necessary to succeed in their careers while also encouraging them to become lifelong learners.
CTE is becoming increasingly important in industries such as construction due to the accelerated growth, which has increased skilled workforce demand in recent years. Further, companies like ours are facing a deficit in craft and trade labor—as baby boomers begin to retire and leave the workforce, the industry is losing decades of valuable knowledge previously passed down.
In attempts to address the labor shortages affecting the construction industry today, we’ve primarily focused on engaging students. However, Lewis recently participated in a new program that’s taking a different approach—an externship program that focuses instead on the teachers and mentors.
Along with other local firms, we participated in a two-week program that fully immersed teachers in all aspects of construction. We toured participants through our jobsites, led presentations about safety and apprenticeship opportunities, and also highlighted the variety of positions to consider, including company administration and management, project design and management, among others. Our hope is that by directly engaging with teachers and student mentors, we’ll be able to cast a wider net and engage more students than ever before.
I’ve worked for Lewis for nearly 20 years, and many of the projects I’ve been involved with have been for local schools and colleges. So, I’ve seen firsthand how important career education is to our community. I’m currently leading Lewis’ team for the Roosevelt High School Modernization project in North Portland. Because we’re working on an occupied site, we’ve tried to be thoughtful in how we engage the students to provide them a sense of pride and ownership, while also looking for ways to expose them to technical job opportunities after high school.
The modernization project at Roosevelt has given Lewis an opportunity to engage students in a unique and impactful way by utilizing the construction site as a real life “laboratory.” By working directly with the faculty, we have developed student tours that highlight the construction activities and trades students are learning about in the classroom. This approach enables us to discuss the intricacies of the work going into place, how different trades collaborate, and dive deeper into career opportunities students are witnessing with their own eyes.
When developing our approach to interacting with the students, one of our goals was to remove barriers that prevented students from engaging in hands-on learning opportunities on the jobsite. In our biggest effort, we partnered with our Roosevelt team of subcontractors to provide safe footwear for jobsite tours. This small feat enabled students to get up close to the work on site, spurring curiosity about the various career options in the construction trades.
Next week as Roosevelt High School students return to school, they’ll move into the newly renovated wing of campus, which they watched come together last year and over the summer. I hope that by engaging multiple groups in CTE—faculty, staff, students and mentors—that we can inspire the next generation of great builders.