Evan Magee and Kendrius Wilder Each Envision a Bright Future in Construction
At Kennesaw Mountain High School, instructor Jeremy Whitaker’s Construction Pathway curriculum is blowing up the stereotype of “shop” class as an easy elective.
At the very least, KMHS construction students receive a mix of hands-on learning and practical advice they can take with them, regardless of what careers they ultimately pursue. And in the process, they might actually discover construction is the career for them.
“Going into that first class, I had no interest in construction,” Magee recalls. “But you learn a lot of skills that you don’t learn in other classes. Mr. Whitaker helps you learn about life and different career opportunities. We got to talk to electricians, welders – any type of construction career path that you can think of, we got a little taste of it. I saw these different opportunities and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Magee interned with Holder in the summer of 2017 and was in a work-based learning program with C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. during the schoolyear. Those experiences further convinced him he was on the right path; when Holder offered him the opportunity to work full-time right out of high school, he accepted and joined the company in June 2018.
“Especially after I interned with Holder, I saw that would be something I want to do for the rest of my life as a career, not just a job,” says Magee, who already is supervising work crews and earning more income than the average recent college graduate. “College is a good option, but for me, construction is an opportunity to learn on the job. Being out in the field, you can see the whole process of the building going up, and that’s how you learn. I like being out in the field, seeing the building go up, seeing the process, problem solving.
“Every day there’s a learning experience,” he continues, “whether it’s just walking with one of my mentors or learning different aspects of the job from the subcontractors.”
Like Magee, Wilder wasn’t thinking about construction as a career when he decided to enroll in Whitaker’s class as a sophomore. But when he heard his instructor speak “about all the opportunities, it sounded like a good career,” he says.
Wilder spent the summer of 2018 shadowing John Lewis, Holder’s superintendent on State Farm’s new headquarters in Dunwoody.
“It helped me really determine what I want to do in construction,” Wilder says. “Being out there, I was able to see all the different types of jobs and understand what each position does. It kind of felt like a reality check. I could see what the real world is like and what people do every day. You get a taste of it instead of just working in a school workshop.”
Kennesaw Mountain High School’s relationships with industry partners such as Holder and CEFGA open doors to those real-world opportunities and give students a better idea of how their career path can unfold. For Magee, that meant going right to work. For Wilder, the plan is to first earn a construction management degree at Kennesaw State University.
In the middle is Whitaker, fostering connections, offering counsel and providing direction where needed.
“If a student comes to the table and wants to work in the construction industry, but also has parents who really want them to go to college, there’s a path for them to still get to where they want to go,” he says. “That’s kind of my job, to figure out ways to get my students to where they want to go.”