“A lot of people think getting a business degree is an end-all-be-all, but there are a lot of things you can get with arechtiecure and engineering and construction management degrees,” said Hovington, marketing manager at St. Louis-based McCarthy Construction’s Atlanta office in Vinings.
There is a “critical shortage” of projected careers for the industry in the STEM field; science, technology engineering and mathematics, she said, which encompass the ACE industry (architecture, construction and engineering).
Two organizations, the Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry and the ACE Mentor Program, became active in Atlanta nearly 10 years ago, and McCarthy is one of several local construction firms participating in the student mentoring initiatives.
“The mission of ACCI is to mentor, educate and develop creative abilities in youth to promote greater diversity in the architecture, engineering and construction professions,” said Lee Jarboe, director of client services, also from McCarthy.
Hovington added, “People are trying to get to kids before they get to college and make a decision. …to ignite a passion in them for building, construction and design, so we can have enough people in the pipeline in 10 or 20 years, so we have enough roads, bridges, hospitals and sports venues.”
The center offers after-school sessions once a week for 10- to 12-week-long sessions, for students to participate in class design problems, lectures and tours of construction sites and architecturial workplaces.
“Basically, it is going into schools systems, generally schools that are under-served in Atlanta, and teaching them about opportunities available in construction, architecture and engineering,” Hovington said.
This year, participating schools were Benjamin E. Mays and Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and Jarboe said they are hoping to expand the program.
Although it is a separate program, the ACE mentor program is also an after-school course for high school students who are interested in learning about career opportunities in architecture, construction, engineering, and related construction professions.
“The program is focused around a specific project our students are working toward in teams,” said Rachel Hendrix, human resources manager of Stockholm, Sweden-based Skanska construction firm’s Atlanta office. Skanska primarily works with the ACE program.
“They’ll get a RFP, a request for proposal, at the beginning of the program and it is pretty much the same process a normal construction firm would follow,” Hendrix said.
Then, they present their final designs and are judged by a panel of industry professionals who come in with an objective viewpoint.
In the past, she said students have been asked to design structures like a new high school and a new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Both Hendrix and Hovington said they recall past students in each mentor program who have taken internships and began full-blown careers in all fields of the industry.
“I really enjoy seeing how the students themselves take it seriously,” Hendrix said. “Whether or not they’re freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, they all seem to realize there is a benefit to them. … To watch them become comfortable talking to adults and really holding their own is so rewarding.”