BC&E members partner with Safe Alternative to create career center
Multiple BC&E member companies are donating their expertise, time and resources to help the Safe Alternative Foundation for Education build a new center that will provide training in construction trades.
The BC&E Foundation previously partnered with Safe Alternative to provide career education for middle schoolers. The Foundation arranged for BC&E member companies to host after-school sessions at company offices, workshops and project sites to introduce students to the construction industry and career opportunities.
As those middle schoolers moved on to high school, however, Safe Alternative Founder and Executive Director Van Brooks decided it was time to expand the foundation’s program. Brooks developed a plan to create a Safe Center in Baltimore that would include a wood shop and training rooms where middle schoolers, high schoolers and 18 to 24 year olds could receive training in construction trades.
Brooks began the process to become certified through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) to provide the same career curriculum offered through Baltimore City public schools. And he purchased a cluster of three rowhomes on South Payson Street to transform into a career center.
John Stahl, former president of the BCE Foundation, learned of the plan and began mustering help for the renovation project. A cluster of BC&E member companies soon volunteered to help with the project, including Bunting Door & Hardware, Excell Concrete, Floors Etc., GWWO Architects, Hatzel & Buehler and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
“This is what I love about the Building Congress and our member firms. These people are tremendous,” Stahl said. “They see a need, they see a good program in the community, and they step up and do amazing things that, at the end of the day, benefit both our industry and the community.”
“Their contribution to this project is huge,” Brooks said. “They are supporting us with in-kind contributions. Any in-kind support means money, which we would have spent to do that work, goes directly to helping our students instead.”
BC&E companies have also contributed their expertise to planning what is expected to be a challenging renovation. Two of the buildings were previously used as a carwash. Consequently, the floor was sloped to enable water to drain. The new center will also need sound-proofing to support a wood shop and adjacent training rooms. Brooks is aiming to complete construction of the 3,200-square-foot center by the end of this year. A schedule for a second phase of the development, which would add nearly 1,200 square feet to the facility, has not yet been set.
“This project seemed like such a good opportunity to use our expertise to do something for the community,” said Doug McGinnis, Owner of Bunting Door & Hardware. “We can sit around and debate about the state of things or we can actually put forth an effort to help change them. This is a win-win venture. Maybe some of the kids who go through this program will decide to go into construction and our industry will get those new employees. But even if they don’t, this center will still benefit them and the community.”
Brooks’ plan for the Safe Center stretches beyond offering onsite trades training.
“For the center, I really wanted a location in an area of the city where not much investment is happening so we could contribute to that neighborhood,” he said. “We will also be purchasing vacant homes nearby. In this location, we are surrounded by literally blocks of vacant homes. I saw that as an opportunity to not only have a training facility here but also an opportunity to purchase some of those vacant homes so that once students have completed our skills training, we will be able to give them some hands-on construction experience fixing those homes. That way an employer who hires one of our students, will get a person who has hands-on experience fixing a property. We will also be refurbishing homes for this community and building up the economics of this community.”