All summer long, Franklin High School student Kathya Suria donned a tool belt and entered a construction site that is very familiar to her:
Her own high school.
The historic campus is undergoing a massive renovation led by contractor Skanska. Kathya worked there as part of the Summer Construction Camp, a paid internship organized by the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute and supported by the nonprofit Portland Workforce Alliance.
“She got to do a lot this summer,” said Skanksa project manager Dan Clark, a longtime proponent of the camp. “She pulled her weight and gained a lot of respect from the guys out there.”
After an intensive safety education class at PNCI, Kathya went into the field and worked with carpenters, assisting with jobs such as building forms for pouring concrete. She earned about $12 an hour, and she tried to add value by looking for ways to save time.
The job gave her a sense of the incredible teamwork behind a $100 million construction project. People have to be good at their work, she said, but they also have to be on time and ready to go.
A big part of the experience, she said, was “getting into the habit of getting up early and going to work.”
Kathya is one of a dozen students from the Portland metro area who participated in this year’s Summer Construction Camp. Another Portland student, Madison High School senior Micah Von Werssowetz, worked for the contractor Reimers & Jolivette on multiple projects.
Micah said having a paid job was a good opportunity for him. He’s not sure what he’ll do after graduation, but he loves building sets in his stagecraft class and he did like working in construction this summer.
“I’m glad this was out there for me,” Micah said.
Both Kathya and Micah participated last school year in the PACE Mentor Program, an in-depth mentorship in the skilled trades led by Portland Public Schools with assistance from apprenticeship centers, industry partners and PWA. PACE allowed students to develop some skills and confidence in carpentry, plumbing, electrical and sheet-metal work.
Summer Construction Camp leaders identified potential student applicants through programs such as PACE, as well as though CTE classes in construction and design. The paid internship fills two needs, explains Dan Clark of Skanska:
Students need real-real world experiences to help them figure out their career paths, and employers need to develop their talent pipeline for the higher-skill, better paying jobs in construction.
“We need people in the trades. We are really feeling it,” Clark said. “This way, we can support (students’) career choices, and the long-term gain is finding employees down the road.”