The purpose of these experiential learning events, made possible by the Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE), is to show highly-motivated teens the dynamism of the industry and the opportunities that await them — including those for young women. The events were held on June 20, July 16 and August 1. Twenty students participate per event.
Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) is a non-profit summer program through which teens have day-in-the-life experiences in inspirational careers. In addition to construction, these careers include science, engineering, music, journalism, and medicine.
CarolinaPower Vice President and General Manager Chris Moore says his company’s involvement in the Ben Franklin Experience has far exceeded all expectations. “We at CarolinaPower are proud to be part of the construction industry – an industry that enhances the lives of our employees and the communities in which we operate. When given the opportunity to tell that story, we were excited to do it. While I knew the students would find it rewarding to install a product at an actual construction site that would be visible to the public, what I did not anticipate was the level of joy the volunteer professionals and craftsmen would experience from sharing their passion for their craft with the students.”
“Exposing students to careers in construction is essential to helping our industry develop the next generation of builders,” said Brasfield & Gorrie Vice President Ben Barfield. “Across our company’s footprint, we partner with a variety of programs to help attract and retain new and diverse members of the construction workforce while giving back to our local communities. This program will benefit the Upstate community by equipping young people with knowledge about viable career options while helping strengthen our industry as a whole.”
On-site support and student-mentoring is being provided by sponsors Eldeco, Waldrop Mechanical Services, and O’Neal. These companies, together with CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie, are members of ABC Carolinas Chapter, another sponsoring organization.
What’s the Benjamin Franklin Construction Experience all about?
In the morning, students fabricate lighting fixtures in CarolinaPower’s warehouse in Greer, S.C., then head to a Brasfield & Gorrie jobsite in downtown Greenville in the afternoon — one of the largest construction sites ever in the City of Greenville, a $200 million dollar multi-use campus where people will live, work, and play.
At the downtown jobsite, students install parking garage lighting fixtures manufactured by experience sponsor, Hubbell Lighting. Supplies and tools that students get to keep after the experience are provided by Southwire, and experience learning materials are donated by Holder Electric Supply, and Shealy Electrical, a division of Border States. Loaned materials are offered by Carson’s Nut & Bolt, and US Tool.
The mikeroweWORKS Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to challenge misperceptions about the trades and help close the skills gap, sponsors the experience. “Putting on a hard hat and getting hands dirty is the best way to dive in and see if construction is a fit for you,” says Mary Sullivan, President of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. “It’s a great career option that shouldn’t be overlooked.”
“It’s so neat to be a part of building and creating something for the city that will be here for generations,” says student and participant, Avery Walters. “I wasn’t sure at first if I would be into this experience, but it has been incredible.”
“The logistics involved in creating this day are herculean,” explains Benjamin Franklin Experience Founder, Jonathan Shanin, “But the power and impact of experiential learning is evidenced in our results.”
CarolinaPower’s Moore added, “By all measures, these all-day experiences have been a success. After the first experience alone, students who would have never considered a career in construction were seeking enrollment in our apprenticeship program. And seasoned craftspeople expressed excitement about the future of our industry after seeing the young talent eager to join our team.”