Building and construction trades are coming back to Seymour in a big way.
Facing worker shortages, local contractor Tom Goecker of Goecker Construction is helping to pave the way for Seymour High School to offer a new career pathway for students to earn certifications and an associate’s degree at no cost and land an apprenticeship and job in the construction field.
Seymour High School has been selected to serve as a satellite campus for the ABC Construction Academy. School board trustees first learned of the program last October.
Cat Lanctot serves as director of pre-apprenticeship for ABC and oversees all of Associated Builders and Contractors’ high school prep academy programs in Indiana. She provided more details about the academy to school board trustees during their meeting Feb. 13.
“We are very interested in bringing this program to Seymour High School,” Lanctot said. “We’ve had some interest from local area members in our association, like Tom Goecker, who really helped get it in the door at Seymour to put our program here.”
Goecker is president/chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors in Indiana, an organization composed of professional and certified men and women in the industry.
What makes the partnership unique is that SHS will operate as the first official satellite site of the ABC pre-apprenticeship program.
“We hope that this will help bring ABC apprenticeship training to Seymour and the surrounding counties where we currently don’t have any offerings,” Lanctot said.
ABC is currently offered in Indianapolis, Hamilton County and Fort Wayne and is adding programs in Carroll County and West Lafayette.
The mission of the prep academy is to develop each student’s academic potential, their personal character and leadership qualities through an academically rigorous and content-rich educational program to prepare all students pursuing careers as craft professionals.
“Right now, we have more interested contractors than we have interested students,” Lanctot said.
The work force shortage is a result of inaccurate stereotypes of skilled trades and the education and professionalism required to work in building and construction, she added.
The 2-year program will be offered to juniors, although seniors can take the first-year course too, which is accredited through the Construction Trades I course through the Indiana Department of Education.
“What the academy does is it introduces our students to a variety of construction trades. It takes them through everything from heavy equipment operation to concrete to the mechanical trades to interior finishing,” Lanctot said. “It allows students who are interested in the trades to start discerning what they may want to pursue.”
Lanctot said it doesn’t make sense for an 18-year-old student to want to be an electrician when they’ve never actually tried to wire anything.
So the goal of the program in the first year is to make construction fun, interesting and engaging for the students, she added.
“We get them on job sites. We get them in front of the employers in the area, like Tom Goecker, through facility visits, guest speaking and guest teaching opportunities so every couple of weeks, they are studying something different,” she said. “They are doing different things. They’re working with different people from the community.”
By enrolling in the program, students can earn safety certifications each semester including OSHA 10, confined space, forklift and scissor lift operation and lock-out, tag-out.
“These safety certifications are what make your students valuable to our members,” she said.
Besides technical skills, the program also teaches soft skills such as how to present oneself during an interview, how to write a resume and other lessons to prepare them to apply for jobs.
“After we get them through that first year, we spend some time at the end of the second semester working on soft skills,” she said. “Soft skills are totally lost on a lot of students, so we take the time to teach them.”
Not only does ABC Academy teach students the skills they need, but it helps with job placement by organizing a career/hiring fair at the end of the year.
“We rally the association members in the area that have internships or full time employment opportunities available only to graduating seniors, and we let the students pick who they want to interview with,” Lanctot said.
Students take time to meet with each contractor one-on-one for a 15-minute interview and the expectation of all the contractors there is to hire those students, she added.
“Our contractors want your students,” she said. “(ABC Construction Academy) is the vessel that connects them. That’s where we kind of step in where some other career centers maybe don’t. We have the employer connections. This is driven by our members.”
Since ABC was awarded a pre-apprenticeship expansion grant through Vincennes University, money is available to hire an additional instructor for Seymour High School to teach the program.
The money also may be used to purchase equipment and consumable materials needed for lab projects.
“That means that the cost per students is going to be pretty low,” she said. The only expense to the school will be the administrative cost to manage the program.
By offering the academy, SHS will no longer have to transport students to the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection program in Columbus for construction/building trades classes.
It has been a long-term goal of the Seymour School Board to offer more vocational classes and programs in-house.
School board president Art Juergens said it’s hard to believe it’s going to be so easy to bring a needed, quality program to students at little to no cost to the school corporation.
“It almost sounds too good to be true,” he said.