Many local associations throughout the state are hosting or participating in construction trades career awareness activities for students, and Manitowoc County Home Builders Association is one of them. However, when our Workforce Development Committee was formed two years ago, what also became clear was that there needs to also be an effort to “educate” the educators and parents to initiate conversations about the fantastic opportunities available in the construction trades.

In October, MCHBA hosted their 3rd Build It Bus Tour for educators. The first two, held in June 2017 and June 2018, were offered to all area schools so educators could enhance their knowledge and curriculum regarding the trades. Because these initial tours were both well attended, the third tour—held this past October—was included as part of the Manitowoc Public School District’s Staff Development Day, a student-free, in-service day usually spent in department meetings and training. District administrators felt the information provided during the tour of construction job sites was extremely valuable for staff, and would help them assist students with academic and career planning.

The bus quickly filled with educators from many departments, including math, English, business, social studies, special education, administration, and technical education. They visited both commercial and residential job sites, a historic building renovation, a truss manufacturing plant, and an HVAC fabricating facility. All of these locations were provided by MCHBA members, and included multiple trades working on-site. The attendees also learned more about the success of the Youth Apprenticeship program as a tool for developing our future workforce.

All post-tour surveys expressed that this was an excellent use of their time. When asked how they can use information gained on this tour in their job as an educator, responses included:

“I will suggest the trades to students as a viable option in their career choice. I see students all the time that could benefit from a nudge in this direction.”

“When talking to students about career goals, I have a better understanding to explain to students as what their options could be.”

“My colleagues and I were brainstorming cross-curricular projects for our students based off of our inspirations from the day.”

The MCHBA Workforce Development Committee continues to look for grassroots ways to promote interest in construction careers. They have had success in proposing a new Construction Trades course for Manitowoc’s Lincoln High School, receiving School Board approval in fall of 2017. That class began this school year with 15 students, and MCHBA members will be an integral part of that curriculum.

In addition, the Committee will continue to host Build It Bus Tours for students and work with the area technical education staff to enhance curriculum with their professional insight. They will continue to talk to parents during school registrations and orientations about the career opportunities available that do not require a four-year degree and student debt, and they will continue to match MCHBA members with students interested in job shadowing. Combining the efforts of educators and trade professionals is a great formula for spurring growth in the local construction industry.