July 29, 2015

When 100 elementary school aged youth from two local programs descended on DPR’s Phoenix offices recently, many of them had a general idea of the types of projects that contractors build. But very few could identify even one of the many career paths available in the construction industry.

DPR was determined to change that. Over the course of two hours during its second annual School of Construction event June 17th, students from the ICAN and Future for Kids organizations joined together with more than 30 DPR volunteers for an afternoon of learning, building and inspiration. By the end of the session, the children took home not only a planter box that each one had built, but also new knowledge and insight into the many promising career opportunities in the construction industry.

DPR project manager Tim Hyde, the brainchild behind the Phoenix office’s first school of construction last year, again organized this year’s event. More than 30 volunteers worked the day of the event and six worked for months prior as part of the planning taskforce.

“Only 23 percent of our participants were interested in a career in construction beforehand, many of them saying “no way!” or “never!” in their responses [at the start of the day],” reported Danielle Gilmore, program assistant with Future For Kids. “That number more than doubled to 47 percent following the trip and resulted in answers like ‘definitely!’ and ‘I’m so excited!’,” she commented. “I think we can all agree that the field trip was amazing, and it really had an impact on the kids.”

The School of Construction day started out with an introductory session that spotlighted five different DPR employees with diverse jobs, including an estimator, accountant, marketing professional, project engineer and superintendent. Superintendent Raymond Espinosa led a motivational discussion with the students about his own path to a successful construction career after his dream of playing professional sports was waylaid by an injury.

After the kickoff session, students split into four groups and rotated through work stations to construct their projects. In the first station, they assembled planter boxes, learning about tongue and biscuit assembly methods using wood pieces that DPR volunteers had prefabricated. Next, they proceeded to stations where DPR employees clad in full personal protective equipment helped them nail their boxes together. They finished off their planter boxes at a decorating station. DPR provided dirt, seeds and a plastic drip tray and packaged them with the boxes to take home. Interspersed in the planter box construction stations was a DPR technology showcase. At that station, volunteers demonstrated the latest in construction technology including laser scanning, 3D modeling, 3D printing and a drone demonstration.

At the completion of the two-hour session, Hyde gathered the children for a closing wrap-up talk, circling back around to the questions asked at the beginning regarding what kinds of construction jobs they now knew about and how many were now interested in pursuing a construction career path.

“They knew a lot more this time – the answers just started coming out,” Hyde said. “That was really cool.”

All in all, Hyde called the day another resounding success by raising awareness about the opportunities in construction with the next generation. “I said before the event that if we can get one more kid interested in a path in construction, this would be worth it. We got six,” he commented. “And it was just really, really fun.”