Field trip gives construction students a view of career options

By Cilicia Anderson

Outlook writer

Midway through a field trip intended to let a group of young people see the many career options they have in the field of construction, the entourage of 16 teenagers got a full view of what goes into building a house.

The opportunity to participate in the Paving New Roads field trip was revealing and fascinating. They got a chance to see how the electricity, plumbing and carpentry were done. Masonry, too.

They also found out about the inner workings of the building process.

“There’s really different ways to build buildings and it comes with a lot of things going through the government,” said 17-year-old Samareya Harrison, a student at Crossroad Academy Charter School. “I think that they should make more groups like this one and start going to different schools. It would be a great impact on the world, especially with people not thinking that women can do it too.”

Students who participated in a Future Builders of America field trip were fascinated by what they saw when they visited the ground level of the baggage claim area at Tallahassee International Airport.
Photo by Cilicia Anderson

As much as the high-schoolers were amazed, it was just a bird’s eye view that they got while on the trip staged by the Future Builders of America. The local chapter of Women in Construction organized the event as part of its national anniversary celebration. 

The local Women in Construction have been putting on the event for three years now. At the end of what turned out to be a more-than four-hour field trip, many of the young people had seen enough to seriously consider a career in construction. 

Daemar Wade, an 18-year-old who is taking a carpentry class at Gadsden Technical Institute, came away feeling he would have more options in construction.

“I’ve always been interested in stuff like this and I’m just trying to get more insight into what I’m going into; trying to make sure this is really what I want to do,” said Wade. “It just made me more interested. I’m ready to get to work.”

The students had plenty of questions and Christion Grissith, contractor on an Arbor Properties project, was one of the people who gave them answers.

“They get to see and meet people in the industry (and) that’s the most important thing; making connections because these are the people who will potentially hire them,” said Grissith. “Number two; they get to see real life jobs, they get to see a variety of trades in the industry.”

The students were thrilled to see different buildings under construction as they went room to room, expressing their likes and dislikes at every turn.

For the most part, they expressed doubts about the quality of the apartments building while it was just the bare bones. However, as they moved through the different stages they saw the project come to life.

They were in awe of the finished product, seemingly appreciating the creativity and imagination that went into the construction. 

The trip through the building sites was intended to make an impression on the 16 students. It was the brainchild of Kerwyn Wilson-Jones, founder of the Future Builders of America’s Gadsden County Chapter. She started the chapter after realizing that many students did not have plans to pursue a higher education.

 Some of the students on the trip attend Crossroads Academy Charter School, while others hone their skills at Gadsden Technical Institute.

“We try to do a little building and we got a woodshop there; that sort of thing,” said Jeff Suber, a carpentry instructor at Gadsden Technical Institute. “They can see first-hand how to make a good honest living and show how other people go about it on a larger scale.

“They actually saw guys that are doing work and they got to see the different phases. They got to see the end result of what you can build from the ground up.”

What they saw during the trip was a bit different from the theoretical approach in a classroom setting.

The properties the students saw on the trip included the Summerfield homes being built by Arbor Properties Construction, a remodeling project of a home built in the 1920s by Roberts Construction, 20 Multi-family Apartments by Hartsfield Construction, The Dwellings Tiny house community. They also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tallahassee International Airport.

The trip was also intended to give the students a look at the practical side of construction, Wilson-Jones said. She also hoped that it helped them develop an interest in a trade that she came to love.

“We learned that the kids were not getting any kind of trades experience at all and they were only being college prepped,” said Wilson-Jones, who owns a construction company. “Everything was college prep and we learned that a lot of our kids weren’t going to college and they really needed a trade so that they can make a decent living.”

Each time she’s put on the trip, the students got to see different aspects of construction. It’s an option if college doesn’t pan out, she said.

“They can be an entrepreneur; open up a company and make great money,” Wilson-Jones said. “I take vacations four times a year (and) I love it.”

Wilson-Jones is an example of what she is trying to accomplish with the students. She got her start in the industry after watching her father teach masonry at the Gadsden Technical Institute for 12 years. She eventually began working for her father’s company, Jones Construction, which she has since taken over as owner.

“I’m passionate about it,” she said. “I like to show them new technology and just how to build our communities. We got so many foreclosed and bad housing here and we want to show them how to bring the community back and help others. That’s what we do.”