Construction Career Day
Staci Webber, Customer Success Manager, shares her experience at an elementary school career day
August 20, 2019
If I had never gotten into the SaaS world, I can almost guarantee that I would be a public school teacher. I am the only person in my immediate family who didn’t go into education, but to this day I still jump on any opportunity to be in a school setting. Last spring, I did my family proud by teaching students all about construction during Career Day at Piney Branch Elementary School in nearby Bristow, Virginia.
Thankfully, I was able to take the day off to go teach 2nd and 5th graders all about what I do at Pype as well as how I interact with the AEC industry as a whole. But, what I ended up learning from these little ones was eye-opening, and the experience filled me with optimism for the future of this industry.
I brought some PPE (safety gear, like a high-vis vest and hardhat) I borrowed from coworkers at the office, and displayed the Pype homepage up on the classroom SmartBoard. The students guessed what my job was, and the top answers were “Builder, Construction Worker, Architect, Engineer, and Crossing Guard.” Aside from “Crossing Guard,” all of the answers were definitely within the realm of the construction world, and I was impressed that children as young as 7 were aware of all those careers. Given we’re in the Northern Virginia area, there are a lot of Virginia Tech grads (go Hokies!) and therefore a lot of parents who are Architects and Engineers, meaning their kids probably have more understanding of construction than the average second-grader. But being able to connect hard hats to the work of an Architect is still pretty advanced in my opinion.
I was also really impressed by how these children were so aware of their surroundings. I asked all of them to tell me what they had seen being built, and every single class gave a plethora of responses: A Storage Facility, Anytime Fitness, houses, Chick-Fil-A, Panera, Starbucks, etc. etc. These young people recognize construction projects and see them being built as their parents drive them around town to after-school activities, different errands, and friends’ houses. They recognize that without construction, there wouldn’t be brand new restaurants to eat at, houses to live in, or schools to attend.
I had walked into those classrooms hoping to open up the construction industry to these young people, presenting it as a viable option for them when they grow up. It’s no secret that there is a huge labor shortage hitting the industry, and without some sort of pipeline it will only get worse. At the beginning of each class, almost none of the children had any interest in construction. They had some knowledge of a few AEC careers, of course, but now they have more awareness of all of the cool things that they could be if they go into this industry. One 7-year-old even told me that she wanted to be like me when she grows up!
Hopefully industry leaders will explore more and more options to encourage young people of all backgrounds to seek out the opportunities that AEC provides. While technology will certainly help streamline some processes, the human mind will always be needed to effectively maintain our current infrastructure and build new masterpieces.