While the shortage of skilled construction workers is beginning to have a significant impact on projects across the country and in Arizona, this semester McCarthy Building Companies is partnering with the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) to host a free career education club for 5th and 6th grade students at Tonalea Elementary School.

Students receive hands-on training in construction basics and the program helps encourage more students to consider a career in construction.

The semester-long “Construction Club” meets twice monthly after school and offers technical lessons using hands-on projects, such as building a solar oven using a pizza box to understand how solar energy works; a carpentry lesson in form building using real wood; concrete mixing and pouring into forms built by students; plumbing demonstration using marshmallow shooters; drafting using Google Sketch; and other activities to illustrate electrical circuit construction, knots and lashings, and catapult construction.

“We’re hoping our work with students at a young age sparks some interest in potentially pursuing more skilled construction education down the road, particularly when they reach high school and can sign up for vocational training in various construction trades,” said Tyler Shupe, a McCarthy project manager who is leading the club. “Jobs in construction are evolving and require more technical knowledge, which really appeals to kids today. For example, we’re now using tablets out in the field on our job sites, which have proven to save both time and money.”

Free hands-on training that can be offered in an after-school setting adds value to SUSD.

“Through a program with the Arizona Educational Foundation, McCarthy Building and Tonalea Elementary School have built a partnership in which such an opportunity has been offered to 5th and 6th grade students,” said Alison Bunde, a teacher at Tonalea.

A group of 20 students work side by side with McCarthy professionals and Tonalea teachers twice a month after school. Within this club students are practicing science and math curriculum taught in the classroom through hands on construction projects.

“Students have built solar ovens and catapults and learned to build forms and mix and pour concrete,” Bunde said. “They’re really excited about the projects planned for the rest of the year.”