This article was originally published on Building Talent Foundation’s website, which you can read here.
Simpson Strong-Tie Training Specialist/Outreach Coordinator Dan Scullion has given product demonstrations to engineers, architects, building officials and construction contractors, but a group of students from Jacksonville Job Corps Center kept him on his toes.
“Those students came ready. They were curious and eager to learn,” he said, impressed by the thoughtfulness — and volume — of their questions. “They asked so many questions, it blew me away!”
As a community outreach coordinator at Simpson Strong-Tie, Dan led the product demonstration and training at a career event for the students at the company’s Jacksonville facility. The event was co-hosted by Simpson Strong-Tie and Building Talent Foundation to expose the students to careers in construction, as well as to familiarize them with the Simpson Strong-Tie brand and products.
Attended by 43 students, the event was designed to allow them to talk to construction professionals one on one, get hands-on experience with products and tools, and interview for jobs with immediate openings. It consisted of three main segments.
First, Simpson Strong-Tie gave product demonstrations and training/overview on the company and its products. The students were able to get hands-on experience with the products at three different stations.
Next, construction industry professionals held a panel discussion for the students, allowing them to ask questions and learn about working in the sector and how to achieve success in their careers. The panelists were Construction Coach Dave Martin with David Weekley Homes, Technical Sales Manager Todd Phillips with James Hardie, and Director at Large Michael Savage with the International Code Council.
Finally, construction industry employers from the Jacksonville area met with students, talked with them about career opportunities, and interviewed them for immediate openings. Employers included American Builders Supply, Construction Solutions, Onsite Safety, and Innovative Construction Group.
So far, ten of the students have received job offers, while the rest are either interviewing or still determining their future plans.
The Simpson Strong-Tie event was an example of how BTF partners with the Job Corps to help students find careers in the building trades. “Working with BTF helps us give opportunities to our students to gain knowledge and hands-on experience that will help them get jobs,” said Si-Meon Russ, Work-Based Learning and CTST Coordinator for Jacksonville Job Corps. “Our instructors even enjoyed it because they got to see the new tools and how the industry is changing.”
At the event, the students, many of whom have barriers to employment, were able to learn how to interact with professionals. “It was essential for our students,” said Si-Meon. “It taught them how to network, gain insight on what employers expect, and how to conduct themselves.”
According to BTF Engagement Director John Tilley, the event was a great opportunity for everyone involved. “The students learned that the skilled trades were in demand, and employers got access to bright, young talent,” he said. “Simpson Strong-Tie was able to make a connection with people who will use and purchase their products in the future.”
What made the event special was the intimate setting. “It got the students out of their normal environment and allowed them to mingle with employers, ask questions, and learn about the products,” John said. “At the end of the day, they had the opportunity to get hired.”
Training the Next Generation
Dan said that Simpson Strong-Tie sees events like this as essential to building the construction workforce. “It’s our commitment to help provide knowledge, training and education to the next generation of the workforce,” he said. “Partnering with Building Talent Foundation to influence the students brings us one step closer to accomplishing our mission.”
Dan added that the company also benefits from events like this one. “It’s helping to build the brand,” he added. “Through events like this, we can expose the future workforce to our products, so they are familiar with them on the first day they work on the job.”
Based on the event’s success, Simpson Strong-Tie and BTF will be replicating it in other markets, promoting construction careers to more students, and exposing more people to Simpson Strong-Tie products.
“A big part of our responsibility to our industry partners includes helping to address the current labor shortage we are experiencing in construction. This event is just one of the ways Simpson Strong-Tie is working on solutions to support the building industry,” noted Simpson Strong-Tie President of North American Sales Roger Dankel.
A Persistent Problem
The Job Corps program was created to allow young adults from underserved communities or who can’t afford training to learn skilled trades without accruing any debt. But even after they graduate, many of the students face additional challenges.
“Housing is an issue,” said Si-Meon, who explained that many students come from out of state and can’t afford to pay rent when they graduate. “They live on campus while they’re in school, but if they don’t return home after graduation, they don’t have a place to stay.”
She said that the Job Corps is helping as many students as they can with temporary housing, but they can’t help everyone.
This presents an opportunity for BTF and its partners to make a greater impact on the industry and the community, according to Branka Minic, CEO of BTF. “What if the industry could sponsor students, or even build low-income housing for them?” she asked. BTF is currently working on ways to address this problem and welcomes any input and ideas from its partners.
Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to partner with Building Talent Foundation, and we look forward to continuing to promote the growth of the construction industry workforce in the United States. You can learn more about BTF and their various works here.