ESCONDIDO — How does a salary that pays well above the average in San Diego county that doesn’t involve a mountain of student loans sound?
Students in Escondido are considering jobs in construction thanks to an initiative from Project Cornerstone. The nonprofit is dedicated to educating students about the importance of the construction industry through making STEM.
Recently Project Cornerstone hosted a two-day Career Technical Education training event. Students from Escondido’s three high schools were invited to explore the construction industry with hands-on activities including welding, concrete finishing, equipment operation, and interviews with industry experts.
San Pasqual High School junior Ted Marchand said he never thought about a career in construction until Cornerstone came along. “Being stuck in a class all day is not my forte,” he said. “There’s no college tuition I really have to pay. We can just go into it right after high school. I like driving, so this fits my career better.”
Executive Director of Project Cornerstone Crystal Howard said the last three years Project Cornerstone has started to focus more on workforce development. “There’s a shortage of construction workers,” Howard said. “Many of them are reaching retirement. The younger generation isn’t aware of the possibilities that are available to them.”
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 77% of 128 contractors responding to a recent survey said they need to hire hourly craft workers within the next year because of recent business expansion.
Howard says the ultimate goal is to create awareness surrounding the construction industry. “That there are jobs available and changing that perception that construction jobs are not cool or don’t make money,” she said. “You can start making $20 to $30 an hour. It’s a great career.”
“All these jobs at these companies have 401k, retirement, health benefits, paid vacation, days off, sick time,” San Pasqual High School welding teacher Beau Haubruge said. “They are really great jobs that not a lot of people know about.”
Haubruge said unfortunately there is a tough dynamic in schools that the only way to be successful is to get a four-year degree. However, not all students are destined for a traditional education. Many can receive a certification from Palomar College or MiraCosta College in two years.
“We need mostly skilled technicians to keep the world running,” said Haubruge. “So, as a shop teacher, my battle is to help kids realize that that’s not the only path. You can go and get trained and get a high-paying job right out of high school and have a phenomenal career.”
Sierra Montes is a senior at San Pasqual and originally planned on joining the military but changed her mind after taking welding. “I’ve always been interested in engineering and during my freshman and sophomore year I took pre-engineering,” she said. “I switched high schools and they had welding and I liked it. I want to do something with manufacturing. It’s different and even though I’m a girl and most people think that it’s male-dominated. I like it a lot.” Montes plans on attending Palomar College or MiraCosta next year.
“We really work hard on changing the perception of what it means to work in construction, it does create a great opportunity for you,” Howard said. “You can be successful and not get a four-year degree. That’s what we are really after — getting more students into and interested in working in construction.”
Project Cornerstone will organize another hands-on program in East County in April. Industry experts that would like to volunteer are welcome. For more information go to www.project-cornerstone.org.