Students at Roswell High School (RHS) in Fulton County Schools get to “bust out the power tools” during their school day and enjoy hands-on learning in carpentry, electrical wiring, plumbing and masonry. The school has a fully-equipped shop stocked with equipment, building materials and other supplies.
RHS’ construction program began in 2013 by Zach Fields, a former RHS teacher who later joined the non-profit organization Construction Ready (ConstructionReady.org), previously known as the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. Construction Ready (CR) is now a valuable school partner offering training, hiring assistance and program design. To kickstart the program – the first on the district’s north side - Fields received funding, volunteer assistance and network connections from the Roswell Rotary Association. Later, a local volunteer group, Toolbox, lent helpful support. Now a thriving program with approximately 100 students taking classes daily, many participate in RHS’ award-winning SkillsUSA club which competes regionally, nationally and internationally. At that level, students can design and build a basic four-wall house with masonry, plumbing, electrical and a roof!
“The Roswell construction program provides a great opportunity for students to build applied skills and be exposed to industry leaders rallying to support the program,” says Fields. “Students learn about leadership and project management that will help them succeed and receive significant industry connections.”
These partner leaders have mentored students through the curriculum pathways to become work-ready for construction careers. Importantly, it is becoming a game changer in upward mobility for students whose post-secondary plans lean toward workforce vs. college. The program not only benefits students with workforce development, teaching home maintenance skills and providing a change of pace from traditional academics, it supports local and regional industry by creating an employee pipeline to help fill the skilled trade gap.
Recently, Fields, now vice president leading support of construction, welding and architecture programs in Georgia’s public schools, returned to RHS to help save the school’s construction program after an instructor’s sudden retirement. The collaborative relationship between CR, RHS administration and the district’s career, technical and agricultural education (CTAE) staff, rejuvenated the program to its former flourishing status.
“The construction program has taught me skills that will be helpful throughout my life,” says RHS senior Billy Clouse, a member of the school’s state championship competition construction team. “Unlike other classes, we get to work hands-on in a construction lab with real materials.”
RHS feeder schools, Crabapple and Elkins Pointe middle schools and Mountain Park Elementary School, have adopted similar, age-appropriate programs and engage over 1,200 students in construction classes.