GREENSBORO, N.C. – 500 8th-grders gathered at the Greensboro Swarm Fieldhouse for the JA Inspire Construction Academy.
Junior Achievement of the Triad, an economic development non-profit, partnered with the Greensboro Builders Association and Guilford County Schools to expose students to 26 vendors and hands-on activities in the construction industry.
Ron Foister, former president of the Greensboro Builders Association and owner of Ron Foister Custom Homes, LLC, says there has been a notable shortage of laborers going into construction.
“As an industry we make up about 8 percent of the total workforce in the United States while only about 3% of the high school students say they wanna go into that workforce,” Foister explained. “There’s a 5 percent disparity there that we’re trying to more closely align expectation with reality.”
The exhibits facilitated at the event allowed students to explore the careers available in the field at an early age by laying bricks, installing hardwood floors, hammering nails and other construction skills.
“A lot of us are where we are today because someone exposed us to a drill or a hammer or a set of architectural plans or a finished product that we were really proud of as an eighth grader or a ninth grader,” Foister said.
Omar Soliman, an 8th-grader at Mendenhall Middle School, was excited to be at the Construction Academy and thinks it is a career he would want to pursue as an adult.
“I’m really excited to be here because of all the different things that you can do in one or two different fields,” Soliman explained.
He says he’s aware a job in construction is not something his generation is actively pursuing.
“It’s a misconception that they don’t get paid enough, or that it’s not fun or something, but if they really learned about them, I think people should enjoy them,” he added.
And Foister would agree.
“It’s our job to educate the kids that are in school systems nowadays and let them know, ‘Hey, here’s the real details and not the stigmas that may have been attached to those industries in the past,” Simpson said.
Junior Achievement of the Triad says 1 in 3 of their Alumni credit Junior Achievement for their career choice, and they hope that the Construction Academy sets the stage for future contractors and construction workers.