Mentors create a bond to guide, advise and influence. When it comes to deciding on a career in architecture, construction and engineering (ACE), those bonds are starting earlier thanks to the ACE Mentor Program of America Inc., a national partnership of design and construction companies and related professionals who work together to attract young people to the industry.
"APi Group and the ACE Mentor Program share a common goal of developing the design and construction industry's next-generation workforce. APi's financial support of ACE and its in-kind assistance of staff around the country who volunteer as mentors significantly help us advance our mission," said Diana Eidenshink, interim executive director of the ACE Mentor Program.
More than 8,000 high school students participate nationally in the private-sector program which seeks to engage and excite high school students about ACE-related careers. Notably, the ACE Mentor Program sponsors a 16-week after-school mentor program which gives students a broad exposure to careers in construction and allows them to participate in mock projects while engaging with industry professionals. ACE also offers scholarships at the affiliate level.
"Our relationships with companies like APi Group are critical for the ACE Mentor Program of America to operate," said Monica Worheide, central regional director of the ACE Mentor Program. "When APi and other firms provide resources and mentors for student sessions, it provides the students with a very early introduction to the different disciplines and how they work in the real world."
Early in his career, APi Group Inc. COO and ACE Mentor Program board member Gene Postma worked as a carpenter before becoming a civil engineer, and knows the value of mentoring. "Our support to the ACE program does more than just pay it forward. We can truly influence an individual's career path. The industry advances when knowledge is given a forum to be passed down."
APi Group's participation also extends to the Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT), a not-for-profit business trade association which represents the industry on public policy and provides a forum for peer interaction. CIRT is composed of about 120 CEOs from leading U.S. architectural, engineering and construction firms, including APi Group CEO and President Russ Becker, who is a CIRT board member.
CIRT is a friend of the ACE Mentor Program. Both organizations recognize the development of human talent benefits not only the employer but importantly, the individual. "No education about the industry is ever put to waste. It's all beneficial," said Mark Casso, president of CIRT, noting the ACE program is focused on attracting students, including women and minorities, to professional careers in the industry.
To this end, the annual CIRT Design and Construction Competition is open to ACE Mentor affiliates nationwide, and coordinated and judged by CIRT's CEO members. "Now in its eleventh year, the competition showcases the talent of the students coming through the ACE program and gives the mentors, many from CIRT-member organizations, a competitive focus for their mentor team," Casso said.
Not all ACE Mentor Program after-school groups choose to participate in the highly competitive CIRT competition. ACE groups are free to create their own mock projects, and there is additional educational content.
For example, Jay Estes, special hazards, alarm and detection manager at Memphis, Tenn.-based APi Group company Security Fire Protection Co. has helped to introduce ACE Mentor students to fire protection. "Working as a mentor with the ACE program has been extremely rewarding, knowing the future of the construction industry provides many opportunities for students with varying interests and skill sets," Estes said.
LeJeune Steel Co., an APi Group company based in Minneapolis, recently hosted an ACE Mentor class on structural steel to architectural/engineering students. "The overall experience proved to be humbling as I not only provided mentorship and guidance to the students, but the students at times become teachers to me during the curriculum," said Blake Sloan, bridge business development leader at LeJeune Steel.
That sort of learning by professionals is common, said Casso of CIRT. "The program helps sharpen the skills of the mentor, not just the mentee. The mentors win, the firms win and importantly the students win," he concluded.
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