Member News – September 2021
Teachers learn real-world lessons through summer externship
A different breed of summer staff is helping KCI Technologies foster a new pipeline of construction industry workers.
For the second year in a row, KCI participated in the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Teacher Externship program this summer. The program pairs 25 Maryland educators with local businesses in a variety of industries. The goal of the immersive, four-week program is to provide teachers with real-world learning experiences which they can later use to help students plot their career pathways.
“I am a strong believer in not wasting a minute of anybody’s time. In that four weeks, I wanted every minute to count. I think it did,” said Melissa Wilcox, KCI’s Director of Quality and Organizational Development.
Wilcox designed a program that would enable KCI’s extern – James Davis, a construction design management teacher at Carver Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore City – to spend a week immersed in each of KCI’s four market divisions: transportation, utilities, water and site facilities. The program gave Davis a detailed overview of each division’s work, time learning from KCI staff and, of course, field trips.
“James was an absolute gift to us. He took on everything we threw at him,” Wilcox said. Those experiences included a boat ride under the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge in D.C. to observe an engineering project and an outing to an environmental project where KCI staff were checking stock counts in a fish passage.
Every Friday was dedicated to “how to take these immersive experiences and turn them into viable lesson plans,” Wilcox said. “For him, the experience was so much about making theory real. This is geometry in action. This is physics in action.”
The program, she added, has tremendous potential to help students identify interesting career opportunities in construction and viable pathways to build those careers. KCI is currently looking at partnering with local schools to create coursework that could help graduates land jobs at KCI.
“We have a number of technical positions at KCI that require a high school diploma,” she said, adding that the transportation and utilities divisions require surveyors and other field staff. “So our goal is to build a partnership with local schools and create career pathways for individuals.”
In addition, high school graduates who join KCI but later decide to pursue a degree, can avail of the company’s education assistance program which pays a large percentage of educational costs.
New construction trades center seeks instructors
With construction nearing completion on its new Clauson Center for Innovation and Skilled Trades, Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) is looking for construction professionals to teach a wide array of skilled trades classes.
McQuaide is looking for “people in the skilled trades, preferably they have gone through an apprenticeship program, preferably they have a journeyman’s or master’s license and they have a passion for teaching the next generation of workers” to work as adjunct faculty for the Clauson Center courses. Each position would involve about nine hours of work each week over a four-month course.
The 11,400 square foot center on AACC’s Arnold campus will contain state-of-the-art labs and is designed to support pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and fast-track training in trades, including electrical, HVAC, plumbing, welding, general construction, sprinkler fitter, forklift operator, framing and finish carpentry. Construction of the center is expected to wrap up in November and Clauson will begin hosting classes in January. Due to philanthropic support, the entire development is being completed in just three years.
“Our struggle currently is recruiting faculty,” said Mary Lou McQuaide, Director at AACC.
AACC, McQuaide said, is equipped to support new instructors. The college has created programs that help adjuncts master teaching technologies, develop a course syllabus and class activities, boost student engagement and effectively track student achievement.
Construction companies could help with the recruiting and benefit the new programs in multiple ways, McQuaide said. “Who do you have on payroll that you think would be a good potential faculty person? Who do you have on staff that would be interested in attending some of our classes on a drop-in basis to talk about something specific, like safety or work-life balance or some interesting technology that is coming down the pipeline?”
Companies, she added, could also have opportunities to conduct mock-interviews among students, identify promising interns and possibly future employees.
The project team which included Edgemoor Star-America Judicial Partners and Johnson Controls, finished construction on time and on budget, despite the pandemic. The 238,000-square-foot facility replaces the county’s 175-year-old historic courthouse which had developed numerous deficiencies and challenges.
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