James Kinsey couldn’t have asked for a better environment for his students to experience what he’s been teaching in the classroom than at this year’s TEXO Foundation BID (Building in Dallas-Fort Worth) Expo at Dallas College’s Construction Sciences Building.
“The kids have had a really good time and it’s been very informative,” said Kinsey, a construction technology teacher at Crowley ISD. “Sometimes it’s hard to articulate everything to the kids, so these demonstrations have been great.”
Crowley ISD had approximately 90 students take part in the daylong event. They were part of more than 1,100 students from across North Texas who were on hand to experience what careers in construction entail from 40 industry partners.
Exhibits featured everything from how construction workers use rope grabs on projects to the ins and outs of building a NASCAR car.
Breaking down perceptions
Construction remains one of the most in-demand industries with 800,000 construction job openings in the state of Texas within the last year. And, considering the average age of a construction worker is 45 years old, this is an industry that has to attract a younger workforce.
“Our biggest barrier is the perception of the industry,” said Meloni Raney, president of TEXO. “This building and our partnership with Dallas College are helping break down that perception.”
Dallas College held the grand opening for its state-of-the-art, 97,000-square-foot Construction Sciences Building in October 2021. It features 11 interactive high-tech laboratories and 24 classrooms to support education in the latest construction technologies, systems and methods.
The building, coupled with events such as the TEXO Expo, showcase the types of careers available in the industry.
“Careers in construction, in manufacturing, in trade, are critical to economic growth no matter where you live,” said Dr. Pyeper Wilkins, Dallas College’s vice chancellor of workforce and advancement.
“There are good paying jobs and career paths that could lead to six-figure salaries or more. And these jobs are always going to be around. Artificial intelligence may be used in tools to do the trade, but it’s never going to replace the need for humans in these positions.”
That’s the message that was conveyed by the industry partners too.
For instance, the Be Pro Be Proud mobile workshop made its first appearance in the state of Texas at the TEXO Expo. It ranked among the most popular exhibits for students, judging by the foot traffic.
It’s a workforce development initiative that introduces students to technical careers through virtual reality experiences.
“We hope to show that a skilled profession can be a first choice instead of what many would consider a traditional career path,” said Andrew Parker, the executive director of Be Pro Be Proud. “We want to demystify what a career in this industry looks like and help the students understand the path from the classroom seat they occupy to which programs offer postsecondary training.”
That’s where a school such as Dallas College comes in with its wide array of technical programs and certificates. And the Construction Sciences Building is a selling point in itself, given its features.
“This does not look like a trade school. It was designed that way on purpose,” said Dr. Christa Slejko, the president of Dallas College’s North Lake Campus. “It has high-end furnishings, a lot of class, a lot of light. This is a high-end experience that leads to great careers.”