New Hampshire Construction Career Days Promotes the Industry to a Younger Generation
Awareness and Education
The primary goal of the NH CCD events is to introduce high school students to the construction industry via hands-on experiences. The students are fully engaged at every station, at every table, and with every professional adult. Changing their perspective of what the industry is and what it has to offer is how, and why, each exhibitor approaches their activity for the students.
How can their interest be sparked? How do we get today's youth off the couch and into the cockpit of an excavator, behind the scope of a surveyor's laser, or firing up a welder's torch? How can we convince parents and counselors that a trade career is a viable and lucrative path to follow? How can we increase the number of females working in this traditionally male-populated industry? By giving our youth the opportunities to actually experience 'the work' of the industry firsthand. When they experience anything, it's theirs forever. There is nothing anyone can say that will convince a student of their ability better or faster than that student's own success, or failure, by their own hand. We learn best by doing.
A Hit From the Pandemic
After 11 successful NH Construction Career Days (2009-2019 inclusively), the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic shut down. In 2021, there were still too many safety and health variables for in-person and hands-on events. There were no consensus of policy or protocols for field trips through the schools. There were too many levels of exposure of liability and sickness.
Another factor that cemented canceling was the fact on how busy the construction industry was and currently is. Construction didn't shut down. Facing lack of workers, increased material costs and supply chain shortages, the would-be exhibitors would have been further taxed by taking their employees and resources away for their businesses for three days. That's been a big ask even in the best of times. The NH CCD events have had 80 different exhibitors – from welding stations to heavy equipment operations; from private engineering firms to public works departments; and secondary education to apprenticeship programs. It's the one event where every part of construction is represented, it's all encompassing.
Not All is Lost
The importance of this program is even more palatable now than ever before. The discussions had in 1997 on what the workforce would be in 20 years has proven out to be true. However, the discussions of today rally around changing the narrative of career path and education. “Going to college or going into the workforce after high school are the two fundamental pathways students consider; neither path should be perceived as better or lesser than the other,” states Mary L. Monahan, an independent consultant who specializes in working with communities to build climate change resiliency. “We have to stress the equity and the balance of each path.”
The job-readiness certifications for high schoolers are now readily being made available. The NAWIC Education Foundation (NEF), for example, offers five construction certificate programs open to anyone, including high schoolers. Certifications such as the Construction Industry Specialist (CIS) and Construction Industry Technician (CIT) not only build a resume with solid credentials (as accredited by the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE)) but also builds the student's self-confidence and hones their focus. Their pathway becomes clearer. Virtual learning and on-line testing have made these certifications attainable and affordable.
According to New Hampshire's Deputy State Director for Career and Technical Education (CTE), Jeffry Beard, Ed.D, “Industry Recognized Credentials provide learners with powerful evidence of their ability to enter directly into the workforce or to continue with education and training. The New Hampshire Department of Education strongly supports the development and recognition of IRCs with value to our employers. Construction is a key sector in New Hampshire and this opportunity will give learners in Career and Technical Education a major advantage in creating career pathways leading to bright futures.”
Supplementing virtual career days is the access to videos that tell the story of the trades through the voice of local tradespeople has also been made available to students. In partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors of NH/VT, New Hampshire Public Broadcast system (NHPBS) and the I Build NH construction partnership initiative, a series of inspirational and instructional videos have been produced. Go to nhpbs.org/ibuildNH/ to view the videos.
“New Hampshire's construction industry is still facing a critical workforce shortage with thousands of well-paying jobs going unfilled,” says Jennifer Landon, Construction Sector Advisor for I Build NH. “The goal of our videos is to inspire young people to explore careers in construction by introducing them to local professionals working on local jobs.”
Keep Your Eyes to 2022
NH Construction Career Days is gauging a comeback for a solid and safe 2022 event. NH CCD is slated for September 22 and 23, contingent upon the state of the pandemic. The group is also currently working with the National Association of Women in Construction's (NAWIC) Maine and Eastern Maine chapters to develop a Maine Construction Career Day. Maine's steering committee initially met in Augusta on March 5, 2020, just days before the shut-down. Included at that meeting were members of NAWIC, Associated General Contractors (AGC), Maine's Chamber of Commerce and Department of Education. The tried-and-true practices and lessons learned in New Hampshire will be adopted and conformed to Maine's best practices.
Although there hasn't been a definitive way to measure the number of students who have routed their careers to construction, the organizers are convinced that this program has made a difference. One student's essay on his experience demonstrates this:
“This was my first time experiencing a construction site in person. It's a whole lot different when you are actually standing there with a hard hat on your head and boots on your feet. Construction workers are very hard workers who know their stuff; I really do see the construction industry a lot differently now.”
NH Construction Career Days' Snapshot
- Established 2009, 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporation
- Founder: Catherine Schoenenberger
- Directors: Meghan Theriault, Eric Gustafson
- Since inception, over 11,000 NH High School Students served
- For more information, go to nhccd.weebly.com or email NHCCD@gmail.com.
- Stay tuned for the Maine dates in 2022, or for more information contact Robin Wood at email@example.com
2019 Event by the Numbers
- 1,553 students from 57 different NH programs, 1 from Vermont
- Female Students: 19.4 percent
- Minority Students: 14.5 percent
- 101 exhibitors with 37 pieces of live heavy equipment
- 300 exhibitor representatives; 50 volunteers; 237 chaperones