CarolinaPower, a leading electrical contractor, and regional general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie were jointly honored by the Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE), on March 27 in Greenville, S.C., for their coordinated efforts last summer that successfully inspired area youth to strongly consider a future career in the construction trades.
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 and Brasfield & Gorrie co-hosted a total of three all-day BFE Construction Experiences in June, July and August of 2018. The purpose of these experiential learning events, made possible by BFE, was to show highly-motivated teens the dynamism of the industry and the opportunities that await them — including those for young women. Twenty students participated per event.
In the mornings, students fabricated lighting fixtures in CarolinaPower’s warehouse in Greer, S.C., then headed 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 installed parking garage lighting fixtures manufactured by experience sponsor, Hubbell Lighting. Supplies and tools that students get to keep after the experience were provided by Southwire, and experience learning materials were donated by Holder Electric Supply, and Shealy Electrical, a division of Border States. Loaned materials were offered by Carson’s Nut & Bolt, and US Tool.
Fast-forward seven months. On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, employees of Carolina Power and Brasfield & Gorrie, together with five student participants, gathered together at CarolinaPower’s office in Greer to celebrate the success of the 2018 BFE Construction Experience.
In a special awards presentation, Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) Founder, Jonathan Shanin; and Director of Operations, Jess Dennis, thanked CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie for their roles in providing students with an authentic “real-life” glimpse into the fascinating world of construction.
They also proudly announced that the 2018 Construction Experience generated the highest increase in student interest of all BFE careers presented in 2018. Students are were surveyed regarding their level of interest before and after participating in the program. Before the experience, 8% of students were interested or very interested in becoming an electrician or electrical contractor; after the experience, 31% were interested or very interested, an increase of 23%. When asked about their interest in construction, 21% were interested or very interested before the program; 49% were interested or very interested after the program, an increase of 28%.
BFE’s founder largely attributes the change in students’ perception of the trades to the passion, enthusiasm, and camaraderie of the professionals that hosted the experience, and their willingness to share what makes their careers so worthwhile. Shanin noted, “The trades are really wonderful. It’s gratifying work that has gotten a bad rap. Exposure to the day-to-day reality of this profession is very convincing.”
CarolinaPower Vice President and General Manager Chris Moore said, “The ratings the students gave us is an affirmation of what we already knew — that when we get the word out effectively, the construction industry is a desirable profession. The students felt great joy knowing they personally contributed to the construction of an actual building. Seeing the lights come on really made an impact on them.”
When asked what else the industry can do to change the perception of construction trades, Shanin answered, “Continue exposing young women and men to the construction industry — and providing clear next steps to pursue this career, once they show an interest in the industry.”
Some of the students who attended the March 2019 host recognition event at CarolinaPower shared their thoughts on last summer’s BFE Construction Experience.
“I always drove past construction sites and wanted to see what was going on. With the Ben Franklin Experience, we got to go inside. see the tools, talk to people and see what was going on behind the scenes. It was cool,” said Safia Bouderka, a senior at NEXT High School.
Kenla Leon, a junior at Legacy Early College, noted “The most interesting thing was to get to be part of making and installing the lighting. I was really amazed and excited to be a part of it. When we were done, I said Wow, I did that!”
“In school we get to listen to what they are telling us. Being able to do things hands-on really motivated me. Before, I thought there were not many female workers in the construction industry. I learned that there are more women in the industry, and they are helping move the industry forward,” said JoJo Cruz, a sophomore at Greenville Tech Charter.
Chanley Hunt, a sophomore at Greenville Early College, said “I wanted to learn more about the construction industry and see if there were opportunities for women in construction. I would encourage future participants to be open minded and be positive.”
“I initially thought it (the construction industry) was boring, but the Ben Franklin Experience gave me the opportunity to look inside of the industry and understand it better,” said Iallyah Taylor, a sophomore at Greenville Early College.
BFE’s Shanin hopes other construction firms will want to get involved. “If your company has apprenticeships, internships or shadowing programs, we at the Benjamin Franklin Experience would love to hear from you. We are always looking for opportunities for our students. Construction firms are welcome to contact me about program sponsorship and/or creation of an experiential curriculum.”
The 2018 BFE Construction Experience was sponsored by the nationally known mikeroweWORKS Foundation and Hubbell Lighting, together with local and regional specialty contractors who provided on-site support and student mentoring, including Eldeco, Waldrop Mechanical Services, and O’Neal. These companies, together with CarolinaPower and Brasfield & Gorrie, are members of ABC Carolinas Chapter, another sponsoring organization.
A video of the Summer 2018 construction experience can be seen here: https://www.franklinexperience.org/exp/construction/
A video of both students’ reactions, and the thoughts of the instructors who participated can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/aidjoy/gain2018.
Read more about the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Construction Experience and stay tuned for information on plans for 2019.
CarolinaPower is a leading employee-owned electrical contractor serving industrial, commercial, healthcare and federal markets in the two-state Carolinas region. CarolinaPower was established nearly 20 years ago as part of Ga.-based MetroPower, Inc. Now a division of its own within the PPC Partners family, CarolinaPower has a total of four offices in South Carolina — Greenville, Charleston, Columbia and North Augusta — with plans for opening additional offices in North Carolina. Visit their website.
Brasfield & Gorrie, with 12 offices in the Southeast, including Greenville, S.C., is one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms, providing general contracting, design-build, and construction management services for a wide variety of markets, including healthcare, commercial, institutional, federal, municipal, industrial, infrastructure, and water/wastewater treatment. Learn more by visiting their website.