Leesburg Area Building Academies, Home Building, Careers

Local high school building academies in Leesburg, The Villages, Eustis and South Lake had a record school year for student participation, but more importantly, these young people helped build four homes for Habit for Humanity of Lake-Sumter .

In April and May, the students handed over the keys to new owners who, without these programs and Habitat for Humanity, would never have been able to become owners. The construction academies of these high schools are a true partnership between the public and private sectors, and many of these students can leave high school with a job in hand.

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Six years ago, when Leesburg Construction Academy was re-established, there were only about 35 students, and the program was struggling, to say the least. With guidance from the Lake County School’s new superintendent, Diane Kornegay, and the commitment of the local construction industry, Leesburg Academy received an $880,000 grant that revitalized the program.

This money was not wasted.

Equipment and materials were purchased, and a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter was forged to give students hands-on experiences in home building.

Mentorship by local contractors and business leaders, along with passionate educators, has created a learning environment for students, and as a result, next year Leesburg Construction Academy has over 300 students enrolled in the program and the school hires a second instructor to expand other areas of construction such as CAD drawing.

Probably the most important aspect of these building academies has been the positive effect on the students. To work in these houses, students are required to follow workplace rules and standards, and there are strict disciplinary guidelines for behavior.

Additionally, non-university students who attend these academies receive recognition for accomplishing something so meaningful, building a home for a family. Students have developed a high sense of pride in their work, and these academies produce young men and women who have an old-fashioned work ethic.

Yes, if you meet a graduate from one of the construction academies, you will be impressed with their politeness, confidence and commitment to doing a great job.

There’s a problem – most programs have been so successful that many are feeling growing pains as students learn that careers in construction and distribution can be more lucrative than those requiring 4-year college degrees. .

As these academies wrap up this school year and look forward to the next one, they need help.

First, graduate students need jobs. If you own or operate a construction or distribution business, look for graduate students from local construction academies. Many of these young people are not going to college and they have to support themselves and their families, especially in these times of higher costs.

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Next, all construction academies need more mentors from the construction industry. The large number of students in these programs will require more help from industry.

The biggest advantage of working with construction academies as a mentor is that you have the opportunity to train future employees. A few hours a year dedicated to mentoring these students is extremely appreciated and a catalyst for their future success.

Academies also need more projects to work on during the year. Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is a great partner, but they are currently unable to provide enough homes and projects to employ that many students.

In the community, non-profit organizations and the school board need to team up on projects that can become viable learning laboratories for students.

Finally, these programs are bearing fruit, but they need more money from local districts, the state, and the federal government. Fortunately, education has finally realized that America needs more skilled artisans and dollars are increasingly available, but concerted efforts must be made to secure grants for these programs.

Locally, this workforce is desperately needed for the huge influx of construction and distribution jobs that are expected over the next five years. The success of building academies is directly linked to economic growth and community development.

Building academies at your local high schools don’t just build houses, they build prosperous futures for young people. There are a few times when you can point to programs that are so successful and collaborative in the community. Please support construction education in our secondary schools.

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the show “Around the House” which can be seen on AroundtheHouse.TV.

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