At a Glance
The Careers in Construction Alliance is a collaborative effort between Upper Bucks County Technical School (UBCTS), Associated Builders and Contractors Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter (ABC), 500 regional commercial construction employers, and local high schools to promote careers and employment opportunities within the construction industry. This collaboration is funded by ABC. UBCTS was one of two schools selected as an initial partner in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
In June 2016, Eastern Pennsylvania ABC Chapter sought to establish the Careers in Construction Alliance to address a shortage of skilled workers in the trades. The partnership helps UBCTS promote post-high school apprenticeship opportunities, informing students of the opportunity to gain paid, on-the-job training immediately after graduation.
ABC’s training director works with UBCTS’s school-to-work coordinator to promote the program and identify potential apprenticeship candidates. Because UBCTS is a partner school, UBCTS students are given priority in the apprenticeship application process. To apply for an apprenticeship, they must complete the application and participate in an interview. Students also are expected to have a strong letter of recommendation from their UBCTS instructor.
While the collaboration benefits UBCTS students in terms of providing them work-based learning opportunities, it also benefits the CTC’s programs by providing them with a strong, business-grounded partner and advocate. For example, ABC provided UBCTS with a letter of recommendation for the CTC’s Plumbing Technology program. The letter highlighted job opportunities and salary expectations in the field. To demonstrate the level of confidence ABC has in the CTC’s program, this letter was shared with parents of UBCTS students. Following the dissemination of this letter, the UBCTS Plumbing Technology program saw a significant increase in enrollment.
UBCTS administrators note the importance of finding unique ways to prepare students for the workforce. This collaboration has shown early success in helping students explore, prepare for, and choose the apprenticeship model as a viable postsecondary option that leads to employment and career advancement opportunities.
Moving forward, UBCTS plans to enhance its partnership with ABC and:
- Develop an annual skills competition among students.
- Develop customized printed instructional resources for career planning.
- Create a student alliance council for student leadership opportunities.
- Promote and market the construction industry as a non-traditional field for women.
- Increase scholarships and registered apprenticeship programs for outstanding graduating students.
- Establish a pre-apprenticeship program with ABC companies. UBCTS is currently applying for grant funds in conjunction with ABC to promote this initiative.
UBCTS administrators credit the ABC alliance with creating valuable training and work-based learning opportunities for students and instructors and for helping to inform parents and the community about career opportunities in the construction industry. They point to the following trends as indicators of the program’s success:
- Seven ABC members currently serve on UBCTS occupational advisory committees, and it is hoped that this number will increase as a result of the collaboration.
- During the 2017-2018 school year, 14 UBCTS recent graduates were enrolled in the following ABC apprenticeship programs: carpentry (2), construction (2), electrical (5), and plumbing (5). In addition, one current carpentry student is engaged in a paid cooperative education (work-based) experience.
- For three consecutive years, 40 students and three UBCTS instructors attended a field trip to the ABC Training Center where they observed a skills competition, explored the latest equipment and industry trends, and learned about the postsecondary apprenticeship model.
- From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, UBCTS’s Plumbing Technology program enrollment increased by 25 percent. (Data cannot confirm the cause for this increase, but it is believed that ABC’s letter of support for the program had a significant impact.)
- UBCTS students and parents attend the yearly ABC Career Night. Approximately 15 ABC companies present a short company description and then provide students with onsite interviews.
- 8 non-traditional UBCTS students attended the summer ABC Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls. This camp provided a week-long exploration in architecture, engineering, manufacturing, carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing/HVAC and painting.
Upper Bucks County Technical School
Michael Herrera, CTE Supervisor
Marilyn Reese, School-to-Work Coordinator
Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (Eastern PA Chapter)
Vince Console, Director of Apprenticeship & Craft Training