CEFGA’s World of Student Interviews Fostered Valuable Connections for Students and Employers
For much of the day during the 2020 CareerExpo on March 12, CEFGA’s new World of Student Interviews was a beehive of activity. Six employers conducted more than 40 interviews with student attendees, and dozens more young people stopped by for information and left with a clearer understanding of how CEFGA can help them move toward a career in the skilled trades.
CEFGA now has more than 120 students in its career path pipeline, which leverages relationships with teachers and counselors to build a growing list of students seeking careers in construction. This effort is designed to facilitate placements ranging from work-based learning to internships and apprenticeships to post-secondary education to full- and part-time jobs in the industry.
“We’re always looking to hire more students and get more students interested in construction earlier, to let them know there are great jobs in it,” said Scott Gaglia, VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) Manager for Maxair Mechanical in Marietta.
At the CareerExpo, Gaglia shared information with student interviewees on opportunities with his company, as well as the need for skilled labor throughout the industry.
“It’s immensely important to let students know what’s out there,” he said. “Looking back at some of my own life experiences, I didn’t quite know what opportunities were out there in the construction industry. I spent several years working retail, kind of at a dead-end job; ultimately it worked out for me, but I may have done some things differently had I known [sooner] that some opportunities were available.”
With the involvement of CEFGA, along with teachers and counselors across the state, more and more students are learning about those opportunities today. That effort has increased even more in 2020, thanks to a landmark grant of $5.7 million designed to expand CEFGA’s impact throughout Georgia.
Among the goals of this investment from The Marcus Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation are exposing more than 21,000 students to careers in construction, providing training and industry credentials to more than 17,500 students, and placing at least 3,500 students into work-based learning and full-time employment opportunities in the industry.
Many companies offer apprenticeship and other training programs, with little to no experience required. Jonesboro’s C.C. Owen Tile Company, for example, has a four-year apprenticeship that a high school graduate can begin with no prior experience in the industry.
“Someone could come in, never having held a piece of tile, and enter the program and be professionally trained,” said C.C. Owen President Rod Owen, another employer who participated in the World of Student Interviews. “They would be trained with credentials, and at the end they get a Department of Labor-approved journeyman tile setter certificate.”
In the field of electrical contracting, many companies work with Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), a nonprofit trade association federation with 52 educational campuses and affiliate local chapters across the country. In metro Atlanta, companies such as North Cobb Electrical Services partner with IEC Atlanta to train apprentices through a combination of classroom sessions and on-the-job experience.
“In today’s job market, with unemployment as low as it is, it’s hard to hire an electrician off the street,” North Cobb Electrical Services’ Steven Ferguson said. “What has worked for us in the past, and I want to continue moving forward with this in a greater capacity, is bringing in young people from high school, putting them straight into the IEC and graduating them in four years as an electrician, all pretty much debt-free.”
Ferguson said his company also has opportunities for rising juniors and seniors to work summer jobs. The result often benefits both parties, with the student gaining valuable experience and insight into the industry, and the employer potentially making new connections via word-of-mouth. The student, Ferguson said, “makes good money, goes back to school and tells his buddies, ‘Hey, I made a killing, it was a good time, and that’s a good company to work for.’”