Article tools: Share:

Building The Next Generation Of Skilled Labors

Español | Translation Sponsored by Nox-Crete Products Group

Construction is one of the nation’s largest industries, with over 7 million wage and salary jobs and 1.9 million self-employed workers. Over the past decade the construction industry has been hit with a rapidly increasing skilled labor shortage. Due to this shortage, Martin Concrete has tried to think outside the box for a solution. One of Martin’s unique approaches to this issue was teaming up with local high schools that have construction academies and/or programs by speaking at these schools about the benefits of entering the construction trade.

“Martin Concrete has tried to create a program to help mend the gap and allow the next generation to consider construction as a career path. By doing in-class presentations and hosting onsite visits, we hope to provide an optimistic and impactful message to the next generation.” — Kristin McKenzie

One high school that Martin has worked especially closely with is Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia. Berkmar is one of the few high schools in the Southeast that offers a construction academy program. The academy offers the ability for high school students to learn a traditional curriculum, but they relate it back to real life workforce elements. For example, math may be taught in relation to the measurements on a blueprint, or English could be explained through contract language. This unique academic approach allows students to gain knowledge and experience simultaneously and should give them an upper hand when entering the skilled labor workforce.

During May and November of 2017, Martin Concrete hosted two onsite tours for the students at the Martin Concrete UPS Distribution project. This project consists of 2.74 million square feet of concrete (roughly 85,000 cubic yards). The massive project made it possible to generate student trips at just about any time of the year. During these visits, the teams explained the benefits of and differences between entering the skilled force trade immediately after high school and choosing to attend college first. Groups of 30 students toured the project throughout different phases of construction. One group experienced watching a team of carpenters prepare and form a concrete slab on grade, and a tilt crew tilting some of the 540 tilt panels. Another group of students got the opportunity to learn about and see a 30,000-square-foot concrete paving pour being placed by Martin’s in-house finishers. They then took a tour of Martin’s onsite portable batch plant, and they were able to see how ready-mix concrete is manufactured. By arranging these visits, Martin Concrete allowed the students to see the processes of the front-line workers first hand, which brought a whole new level of involvement and interest that otherwise might not have existed.

Donyale Miller, the architecture teacher at Berkmar High School, was able to experience the site tours with several other teachers. She said that the program Martin Concrete provides helps her students with class discussions, and she also noticed that the students have become more intrigued with a future in construction. Students began to inquire about how old a person has to be to start a career in construction, how long it takes to move up in the industry, and what type of hours are required. Mrs. Miller stated,

“The students got to see firsthand how things work. In architectures class, we get to see how the things we draw are put together. They really didn’t know how enjoyable and profitable the profession could be. They didn’t realize the need nor how fast you can move up professionally.”

Robert Rodgers, Berkmar’s construction teacher, felt the visits allow the teachers to create real life lesson plans for their classrooms. “We were able to take what we saw and implement it in the classroom by creating scale size models to help mimic the actual processes,” Rodgers stated when asked how the field demonstrations are reflected in the classroom.

“I believe that Martin Concrete really cares about the youth in our community. I like the way they are extending their opportunities to reach the students at our school. They make my job more interesting and help to bring real life experiences to my classroom!” — Robert Rodgers

John Tonolone, the academy coach at Berkmar, is impressed with Martin Concrete’s creative approach in addressing the labor shortage.

“Martin Concrete is the model of what schools look for in an industry partner. From the first discussion, they had a stake in the students of Berkmar and understood that time and collaboration was more effective than the usual monetary support business partners offer schools. Kristin and her staff took the time to discuss with Berkmar faculty about what they were teaching in class so that together they could figure out what resources and people from Martin Concrete best fit with the curriculum. They reinforced this by speaking to students onsite and in the classroom about the industry and what to expect when they visit the UPS site. This complete approach to the visits showed a concern for our kids and their future as well as enabling the students and staff to easily see the connections between the classroom and the real world and invigorate their interest in the industry.” — John Tonolone

Because Martin is a complete concrete turnkey contractor, the students had the ability to speak to and learn from workers from a variety of positions within the concrete world. These interviews were with people who were project managers, concrete finishers, truck drivers, carpenters, batch plant managers, crane operators, equipment operators, and safety personnel, showing that the industry has more to offer than one could ever learn from a textbook alone.

Leave A Comment

Get Connected

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Connect with us on LinkedIn
Subscribe to us on YouTube


About us

TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.