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Not Your Traditional Shop Class: Building Construction’s Next Generation

Across the country, the demand for skilled commercial construction labor continues to grow. Thanks to KHS&S, a building construction program at a Tampa high school is providing the technical aptitude and lifelong skills to lead commercial construction into the future. 

Erik Santiago, senior vice president, KHS&S, and Kyle Thompson, a Middleton High School construction technologies teacher, connected over the years at industry events. What initially started with KHS&S donating construction materials for use in the classroom blossomed into the company providing course instruction led by team members. Since most high school construction programs focus only on the residential aspect, this program broadens students knowledge by showcasing the commercial side of the business. 

The initial program targets advanced juniors and seniors that have completed two years of construction tech classes. Over a multi-week program, students fabricate a small wall in the class learning the core skills for commercial construction including organizing workstations, teamwork, framing, drywall, plastering and cutting metal studs. Important safety techniques, a hallmark of KHS&S’ reputation, are taught including certifications and job site requirements.

The program provides technical education as a conduit to a career or college. Some students embrace this training in lieu of following the traditional four-year college route, since the curriculum is directly tied to skills required for a job in the construction field. 

“It’s not just about preparing the students for jobs as laborers,” said Santiago. “We help explain how these skills are an entry path to a career.” 

KHS&S’ Jess Robinson, senior vice president, DJ Smith, general superintendent and Lean specialist, and Jim Web, safety manager, are classroom instructors. 

“We’ve put a lot of energy into the program, and it’s rewarding to see students make the connection between what they’re learning in class and the potential for a career,” said Robinson. 

The program not only provides a pipeline for commercial construction but gives students technical and lifelong skills that can be applied in other fields they may choose to pursue.