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GOOD NEWS: Bridges Construction & Renovation Program Enrollment Grows by 300 Percent Between 2018/19 to 2020/21 School Years

March 27th, 2020 | Published by NEW Construction Alliance

With all the gloom and doom surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak, we thought everyone could use some good news.

Enter Brian Frerk—technology education teacher and leader of the Bridges Construction & Renovation Program at Green Bay West High School—who shared exciting news with The Build Out this week.

Frerk took over the program in the 2018-19 school year with eight students enrolled. Frerk shared that, “When I started, my goal was not only to fill the class, which caps at 12 students, but I wanted to add a second section at some point in the future.” He met and exceeded that first goal in just his second year, stretching the class size to accommodate 13 students in the current program. “I didn't want to turn anyone away,” added Frerk.

Sensing the program momentum and increased interest, Frerk sought and received permission to add a second section focused on the “renovation” portion of the program’s name. The response was overwhelming.

“Currently, I have 27 students applying for 24 positions,” Frerk stated. A few of the students applied for other capstone programs, so he expects that when final decisions are made, they will come in right under or at their cap number.

That’s a whopping 300 percent increase in less than two years!

This is exciting news for our industry, especially as there has been so much disturbing and sad news surrounding the current health crisis. These students are taking positive steps today to ensure a solid future for themselves.

In light of the many who have have lost their jobs due to forced closures, this is an opportunity to educate people on the many well-paying job openings in our industry—a large number of which have been deemed essential even in these difficult times.

Frerk credits the expansion to making personal connection with students. “As someone who has spent my entire adult life in the U.S. military and then the construction industry, I see both suffering from the same recruitment problem: Students just don't have a personal connection [to the construction industry.]”

He points out that most of those who are entering the program have someone who has encouraged them to do so. Frerk believes we need to find ways to grow that approach. “I know my love for building and creating things with my hands came from my father and grandfather…letting me ‘help’ with projects around the house. This generation hasn't grown up that way.”

Frerk recognizes a challenge that many others have experienced when recruiting to the construction trades: “I see an overemphasis that college is the only road to success. And that if you are not ‘good enough’ for college, then maybe you could consider the military or construction.”

His solution has been to “spend a lot of time talking with kids about the potential for careers that pay well and have the potential for growth, not just a stagnant job.”

When asked about the best ways the construction industry can help the Bridges and similar programs, Frerk reiterates the need for personal testimonials about the construction career path: “Bridges is a Capstone program. Getting to more kids at an earlier age is the key. Most don't have family members in the trades and have little experience with construction.”

He continued: “I would suggest doing things to get younger kids engaged. Bring a pile of lumber and a couple of carpenters to help kids build benches for their schools, for example. I know it comes at a cost and the return on investment is many years down the road, and that's not the way business generally works, but we need to try something different.

“These kids have grown up with computers and video games, not hammers and nails. It's not their fault. They have just never had the experience. There is also a huge shortage of tech ed teachers, therefore many positions go unfilled and districts need to offer fewer classes when unable to fill the position. Often middle school programs get cut in order to staff high school positions at a minimum. Helping those schools give young students some experience while they are still impressionable could be key,” concluded Frerk.

You can learn more about Frerk and the Bridges Construction & Renovation Program by clicking here.

  • NEW Construction Alliance
  • 1460 Foxborough Ct.
  • De Pere, WI 54115