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Kids Try On Transportation Construction Careers at Camp

Tue August 26, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Laura Brightbill

It is no secret that the transportation construction industry is suffering from a shortage of qualified workers. Two major contributors include an aging work force, and very little education offered to young students to foster their excitement for careers in construction.

The Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) responded to this shortage by creating a work force development initiative to cultivate interest in the transportation construction industry with Harrisburg-area children. APC recruited volunteers from member firms to become involved in a series of math and science camps to achieve the goals of the initiative.

The youth programs, held throughout July at both Camp Schikellimy in Upper Dauphin County, and the William Penn Campus in Harrisburg, were organized by APC and the Camp Curtain YMCA.

The camps included a wide variety of math and science projects relating to the fields of highway, bridge, and building design and construction. Seven APC associate members from local engineering firms teamed up with four volunteers from PennDOT and three volunteers from APC’s staff to be the camp instructors.

Due to a generous grant by the APC Educational Trust Fund trustees, funds earmarked for promoting highway construction careers were used to purchase the curriculum programs used at the camps.

The instructional programs, entitled Build-Up! and On Site!, were developed by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America in partnership with Scholastic Publishers. The programs are in the form of large plastic toolboxes, and include an assortment of hands-on math- and science-related lessons.

Several activities included in the kits are the construction of popsicle stick bridges to teach the strength of varying geometric shapes; the mixing of concrete to show the use of chemistry in highway construction; and a lesson that employs an instructional video, a book, and a crossword puzzle to explain the multitude of careers available in the transportation construction industry.

In addition, Cleveland Brothers Equipment Company donated an “I Love Cat Machines” video to teach the campers about construction equipment. Carl DeFebo, of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, donated instructional kits to show the history and layout of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Rick Geist, representative of the Office of the Majority Chairman of the House of the Transportation Committee, donated Pennsylvania maps, to aid the camp program.

Outside the classroom setting, the children were further introduced to various transportation construction careers available. Kim Meyers, of Pennsy Supply, gave a guided tour of one of the company’s quarries in Hummelstown, PA.

Crystalann Harbold, a volunteer of Johnson, Mirmiran & Thomson, noted, “Through our mini-discussions, activities and the bridge video, we opened their [students] eyes to all the possibilities available in the construction industry.”

The first week of the camp commenced in both Harrisburg and Upper Dauphin on July 7, and lasted for four weeks. These camps were well attended with approximately 70 children taking part in the activities.

Camp Schikellimy was a residence camp, housing approximately 90 children over the three weeks that the math and science sessions were held there.

The volunteers, along with APC and the YMCA, were able to enlighten these children about the worlds of transportation, construction and civil engineering.

When asked why he volunteered, Nicholas Siegl, of Gannett-Fleming, responded, “I volunteered because I get a lot of satisfaction out of my job designing highways and bridges, and believe most kids in Harrisburg would also get pretty excited about this type of work if someone would take the time to tell them what it’s all about and where the opportunities are.”

He and his counterparts who volunteered their time played a part in triggering the beginning of a very bright future for the transportation construction industry.