CEFGA Helps an Indiana High School Launch its Own Construction Career Development Program

CEFGA’s Zach Fields (blue shirt) introduced Chad Sutton (plaid shirt) to teachers and students in Roswell, Georgia elementary and middle schools. Scroll to bottom of page for more photos.

CEFGA is committed to promoting careers and boosting the construction workforce in Georgia. But its influence also is transcending state lines, as Garrett (Indiana) High School’s Construction Trades Program illustrates.

In 2017, Chad Sutton, Director of Career Development at Garrett High, heard CEFGA’s Zach Fields speak at the National Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Conference in Nashville. Sutton followed up with Fields, Vice President for CEFGA’s K12 Pipeline, and the two began a regular correspondence.

“Chad learned about the K12 Pipeline model and he went and replicated it in his local school system,” Fields said. “He and his partners have come to Georgia to visit our K12 Pipeline model of feeder elementary and middle schools beneath current high school programs.

“Chad and I still communicate regularly and share updates on our various projects. There are very few people who are leading efforts in a full K12 model, so we benefit greatly by sharing information. I hope we can integrate some of the innovations that Chad has developed in his Construction Career Development Program.”

Sutton calls Fields a mentor and said his influence has been instrumental in getting Garrett’s program started.

“I knew it was time for something different to happen,” said Sutton, a 10-year veteran at his school. “Our program was growing steadily and it needed a new approach. After listening to Zach talk about the CEFGA program, I realized the model was there for me to start to mold the program. I reached out and started asking lots of questions. He was always, and still is, so accommodating to help, suggest or just listen.”

Fields connected Sutton to the Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation; that partnership also was a big help as he launched the program in 2018.

“Our program is very similar to CEFGA’s except for the fact that we added integrated academics, or embedded credits,” Sutton said. “Our students study math, English, and eventually science and history based off of the construction and manufacturing platforms. We offer four vocational training experiences students can choose from: Construction, Welding, CAD and Manufacturing Processes.

“Our students leave our program with industry-recognized credentials. NCCER plays a big role with our construction curriculum. Our CAD and Welding all filter through a local community college, Ivy Tech. NCCER and Build Your Future have played big roles in the exploratory role for our students. Students can accurately research many different careers and begin the training process.”

The Garrett Construction Career Development program begins in elementary school, encompassing students in grades 5 through 12. The fifth-grade exploration class enables students to build projects they are able to take home.

The Garrett program, which recently was featured on the NCCER website, graduated 10 students in its first class, seven of whom were placed in industry positions directly out of school. The students were recognized for their hard work by their peers, teachers, local business owners and politicians during a signing day event at the high school. The program is estimated to have between 35-40 students in each class over the next few years.

Meanwhile, Fields continues to build relationships with partners throughout Georgia. If out-of-state schools and companies take note, as Sutton did, all the better.

“We envision other partners doing the same,” Fields said. “We want to set the stage and show our effectiveness in helping other organizations do what we are doing in Georgia. That way we can remain focused on Georgia while still helping to build the industry as a whole.”

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