As the shortage of labor in the skilled trades persists, some contractors are increasing their engagement with the next generation poised to enter the workforce. These companies are seeking to cultivate connections with students by showing them in person peeks at careers in the building industry.
Rosendin Electric, a national electrical subcontractor with an office in Hillsboro, is doing just that via the Hillsboro Chamber’s School to Career program. In cooperation with the Hillsboro School District, the firm has developed a two-day program that brings high school students to its shop for exploration of the electrical trade.
“It’s really worked twofold for us,” said Zach Sharber, Rosendin’s quality assurance and commissioning program manager for the Pacific Northwest.
“One is being a good partner in our community – we’re part of the Hillsboro community. And two is getting people interested in coming back to Rosendin or into our industry to help fill that void we’re experiencing right now. The schools can’t do it alone.”
Approximately 20 students from Glencoe, Liberty and Century high schools as well as Aloha High School in Beaverton School District recently spent two full days learning career skills such as basic wiring, estimating, project management, building information modeling, engineering, pre-fabrication and more. Further, they also gained insight about the soft skills – interviewing, resume building, fitness and more that are important in the construction industry.
Participants are also involved in their respective school’s construction or CTE (career and technical education) programs. Some were first-time attendees and others, Sharber said, have attended previous Rosendin events.
“I think the most encouraging thing is seeing the recurrence of the same kids who are interested,” he said. “Some are showing up because it’s something different, but we see the spark every time. They may not be climbing all over us to get information today, but it’s in there. And I guarantee that this summer they will be looking at the things we talked about.”
Knowledge about different options is key, Sharber said.
“If they come in once, great. If they come in twice, you know you’ve got someone who is interested,” he said. “What it speaks to me is exposure. That’s the in, that they know it exists.”
That’s certainly the case for Aloha High School senior Juan Carlos, who attended a Rosendin event for the first time. None of his family members work in construction; he learned about the event from a teacher. He’s been impressed with the instruction so far, he said.
“I don’t really want to be a person with a lot of debt when you get out of college,” Carlos said as he passed a pair of augmented reality goggles to a fellow student. “I wanted to come here because it always seemed interesting to me, and I wanted to learn important skills because you never know when you’ll need them in life. And now I figure that if I do an apprenticeship I won’t have any debt.”
Rosendin volunteers, including BIM modeler Brandon Penney, showed Carlos and other students how the tools of the trade work.
“We do this with a lot of schools,” Penney said.
He pointed at a semi-enclosed space containing metal-stud framing, conduit, receptacles and other items.
“This whole setup is a mock-up of one of the rooms at Sherwood High School,” he said.
Through the augmented reality goggles, Penney showed students how the same layout could be viewed as a 3-D model.
“Our best feedback is the hands-on portions out in the lab,” Sharber said. “So we’re looking at opportunities to expand it.”
The goal, Rosendin business development manager Courtney Hron said is to inform students of career choices they may not have known previously.
“It’s getting them in here and getting them to understand that once they go through that they have an option,” she said. “They can bounce around wherever they want to be.”