Next week, the Associated General Contractors’ Oregon-Columbia Chapter, in partnership with the Academy for Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE Academy), will open the first ever AGC High School Student Chapter in the United States. A back-to-school barbeque on Tuesday, August 26, will allow current and incoming students, teachers, families, community members, and viable employers the opportunity to mingle and learn more about the wonderful opportunity the AGC student chapter at ACE Academy will offer both students and the construction industry.
Workforce development is a targeted priority for AGC, and investments in career technical education (such as the ACE Academy) is just one of many ways to ensure a highly skilled, diverse workforce in Oregon’s future. For the junior and senior high school students at ACE, membership in an AGC student chapter will provide them with an opportunity to learn, observe, and develop their skills with current leaders in the commercial construction industry in an integrated, hands-on setting.
The AGC of America has over 200 student chapters nationwide. Throughout the state, AGC has active student chapters at Oregon State University, the Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland Community College, and Rogue Community College. The Oregon State University AGC student chapter was the first collegiate chapter to open, and has proven to be an immense benefit to both students and Oregon’s commercial construction industry.
In OSU’s 2014 Construction Engineering Management Program graduating class, 78% of the seniors were AGC student chapter members. Of those members, 93% had completed at least one industry- related internship, and over 80% of the members had at least one full-time job offer prior to graduation. The average base salary of those AGC student chapter members directly following graduation was $59,758, well above Oregon’s average salary for private sector employees.
What these data points demonstrate is that by connecting with viable employers via internships and mentorships during school, students are better positioned to earn family-wage jobs. The academic level of ACE’s technical skills curriculum in the design-build industry, partnered with membership in the AGC high school student chapter, will better prepare students for a wide-range of post-high school options including college and professional schools or programs, apprenticeship programs in the trades, direct entry in to the workforce, or military service.
As of July 30, 2014, the average salary of a construction worker in Oregon was $51,500—16% more than all private sector employees in the state. From an industry perspective, the recognition of the construction industry as a path to a well-paying job and career is a critical step toward meeting our future workforce needs. When you combine the aging trend of the baby boomers that make up a majority of our workforce with the need to add more skilled workers, we will need to add over 23,000 skilled workers by the year 2020.
For those of us in the construction industry, meeting that workforce need proves challenging at a time when students are typically presented one post-high school path forward: college—and college is often interpreted as “university for all.” Students, teachers, and parents need to broaden that definition to mean “post-high school education for all,” and understand that there is more than one path forward following high school graduation. Apprenticeship and other programs that focus on the development of technical, in-demand skills are examples of these other paths forward.
In the 2014 Legislative Session, AGC took special interest in the passing of House Bill 4058 that recognizes apprenticeship as part of the middle 40% of Oregon’s 40–40–20 education goals, along with associate’s degrees and other certificates. By signing the bill into law, Governor John Kitzhaber reinforced what members of Oregon’s construction industry already know—that the education an individual receives through an organized, hands-on apprenticeship program is just as valuable as other forms of education and has the potential to result in a more direct, stable entry into the workforce.
The mentorship opportunities AGC student chapters provide, and the exposure to other post-high school paths—including apprenticeship—that they offer, are central building blocks to ensuring high-quality construction in our state. Through AGC’s partnership with the ACE Academy to open the first high school chapter, students will be exposed to options they might not have known they had, and provided the tools they need to secure a bright future.
**The ACE Academy BBQ will be held August 26, 2014 5:30–7:30pm at ACE Academy: 4222 NE 158th Ave, Portland, OR 97230. Register here.