Washoe County School District
The construction industry is growing fast in Northern Nevada. And the Washoe county School District is preparing students to fill jobs in that changing industry, and build successful careers.
“We want Reno to be a thriving place where families want to move, families want to educate their kids, and where they know they will have opportunities afforded to them” said district superintendent Traci Davis.
Davis recently visited the construction site at Rancharrah, the site of a new planned community near Lakeridge, to meet with several key players in the expanding industry.
“Like many people, I assumed construction jobs were only about swinging a hammer, pouring concrete, running electric wires, and wielding a wrench. What I found was that the 21st century construction industry also needs people who can operate drones, create 3D maps and models, navigate sophisticated software to interpret plans and comply with building codes, and operate computerized equipment. There’s a high need for those that can manage complex projects, supervise people, and communicate effectively with many diverse stakeholders.” Davis remarked.
Her conversation, with representatives from local groups like Q & D construction, Katerra construction, Nevada Builders Association and the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union, among others, revolved around the diverse array of jobs in the industry and how to fill them.
“As we grow, this is a great opportunity for the district to partner with community partners to say where we see ourselves now and in the future,” Davis said.
A crucial part of that future, according to the industry representatives, is recruiting Nevada students into the the field.
One of the challenges industry leaders identified is that many community members have an outdated idea of what it means to work in construction. It’s not all manual labor and big machinery — in fact, members of the industry say that young people familiar with newer technologies involving the use of drones for mapping and sophisticated construction software, are well placed for success in the field. Additionally the construction industry would also like to attract more qualified female applicants to opportunities for management and use of technological advances. They certainly stressed that applicants need good academic skills and the ability to be detail oriented.
Kassi Mast is one Washoe County graduate working in that field. Mast, an alum of Wooster High School, visited the Rancharrah construction site with Davis. She now works for Katerra Construction, a company that exemplifies the changing nature of the industry. Katerra, Mast pointed out, is working on a new model that does much of the construction preparation off-site, in a factory setting, with sophisticated techniques that save time and money.
There are opportunities geared toward getting other graduates into the field.
A construction career day, held every October for middle school students for example, allows students to see first hand how engaging the career field can be. Also, Rob Benner, of the Building and Construction Trade Council said 18 unions in our area provide free construction training.
“At the end of the day, it’s about growing the industry as a whole,” Aaron West of the Nevada Builders Association said.
Participants in the discussion also suggested that students could be exposed to career choices through things like videos in elementary school, and that high schools could start a “Career Day” where speakers come to campuses to host activities and talk to students about their career options.
Dr. Dana Ryan, Director of Signatures and Career and Technical Education for the school district, talked about how students participate in internship opportunities as part of the CTE programs. She also shared plans for new construction programs at Sparks and McQueen high schools in the near future.
The bottom line, all parties agreed, is changing perceptions about preparing for the future. Internship and apprenticeship opportunities, even on the job training many companies offer, can be just as valuable for some students as jumping straight to college. There are many different ways to gain an education for a productive and fulfilling career, and this deep and engaging discussion certainly revealed that the construction industry is anxious to be a part of the future with the Washoe County School District. The district will continue to make students and parents aware of the many options available for a successful career in the future.
“There will be students who come up with the cure for cancer or literally build the community we will live in, so we have to insure that we give every kid an opportunity to go forward and live life in such a way that they can contribute to society,” Davis said. “We have the opportunity to cultivate this as we build a great school district with our partners.”
Source: Reno Gazette Journal