CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie were jointly honored by the Benjamin Franklin Experience last month in Greenville, S.C., for their coordinated efforts last summer that successfully inspired area youth to strongly consider a future career in the construction trades.
Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) is a non-profit summer program through which teens have day-in-the-life experiences in inspirational careers. In addition to construction, these careers include science, engineering, music, journalism, and medicine. BFE is supported by the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to challenge misperceptions about the trades and help close the skills gap.
CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie co-hosted a total of three all-day BFE Construction Experiences in June, July and August of 2018. The purpose of these experiential learning events, made possible by BFE, was to show highly-motivated teens the dynamism of the industry and the opportunities that await them — including those for young women. Twenty students participated per event.
In the mornings, students fabricated lighting fixtures in CarolinaPower’s warehouse in Greer, S.C., then headed to a Brasfield & Gorrie jobsite in downtown Greenville in the afternoon — one of the largest construction sites ever in the City of Greenville, a $200 million dollar multi-use campus where people will live, work, and play.
Fast-forward seven months. On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, employees of Carolina Power and Brasfield & Gorrie, together with five student participants, gathered together at CarolinaPower’s office in Greer to celebrate the success of the 2018 BFE Construction Experience.
In a special awards presentation, Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) Founder, Jonathan Shanin; and Director of Operations, Jess Dennis, thanked CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie for their roles in providing students with an authentic “real-life” glimpse into the fascinating world of construction.
They also proudly announced that the 2018 Construction Experience generated the highest increase in student interest of all BFE careers presented in 2018. Students are were surveyed regarding their level of interest before and after participating in the program. Before the experience, 8% of students were interested or very interested in becoming an electrician or electrical contractor; after the experience, 31% were interested or very interested, an increase of 23%. When asked about their interest in construction, 21% were interested or very interested before the program; 49% were interested or very interested after the program, an increase of 28%.
BFE’s founder largely attributes the change in students’ perception of the trades to the passion, enthusiasm, and camaraderie of the professionals that hosted the experience, and their willingness to share what makes their careers so worthwhile. Shanin noted, “The trades are really wonderful. It’s gratifying work that has gotten a bad rap. Exposure to the day-to-day reality of this profession is very convincing.”
CarolinaPower Vice President and General Manager Chris Moore said, “The ratings the students gave us is an affirmation of what we already knew — that when we get the word out effectively, the construction industry is a desirable profession. The students felt great joy knowing they personally contributed to the construction of an actual building. Seeing the lights come on really made an impact on them.”
Several of the students who attended the March 2019 recognition event at CarolinaPower shared their thoughts about last summer’s BFE Construction Experience.
“I always drove past construction sites and wanted to see what was going on. With the Ben Franklin Experience, we got to go inside, see the tools, talk to people and see what was going on behind the scenes. It was cool,” said Safia Bouderka, a senior at NEXT High School.
Kenla Leon, a junior at Legacy Early College, noted “The most interesting thing was to get to be part of making and installing the lighting. I was really amazed and excited to be a part of it. When we were done, I said Wow, I did that!”
“In school we get to listen to what they are telling us. Being able to do things hands-on really motivated me. Before, I thought there were not many female workers in the construction industry. I learned that there are more women in the industry, and they are helping move the industry forward,” said JoJo Cruz, a sophomore at Greenville Tech Charter.
A video of the Summer 2018 construction experience can be seen here: https://www.franklinexperience.org/exp/construction/
A video of both students’ reactions, and the thoughts of the instructors who participated can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/aidjoy/gain2018.