Case High, Park High students see possible futures in construction

When working in the construction field, it’s important to be prepared for inclement weather and the chance of having soaked feet. One worker keeps socks in his lunchbox.

That was one piece of advice, among others, that Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited, told Case High School and Park High School students visiting several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip on Wednesday.

The Academies of Racine — engrained at Case, Horlick and Park high schools — were launched to prepare students for college and the workforce, offering small learning communities that provide real-world experiences with local businesses and professionals.

Amanda Kurt, vice president and managing partner of Union Grove-based Kurk Concrete organized the field trip; planning began for it last year. She noted this field trip was a new venture and unlike any others.

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About 100 students from Case and Park construction classes traveled around Mount Pleasant and Caledonia to five work sites on a rotating schedule throughout the morning and afternoon, with a break for lunch. The goal of the tour was to showcase home building and the opportunity for a career in residential construction in Racine County.

Kelli Steenrod, academy coach at Park, noted the schools appreciate Kurt for organizing everything.

“This is just a great opportunity for all the students here,” Steenrod said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 4% growth in total U.S. construction jobs between 2021 and 2031. On top of that, the Associated Builders and Contractors trade association estimated the industry is facing a shortage of around 650,000 workers this year.

“Learn something that is sought after — you will never be without a job,” Dietzman said.

‘A different world’

Sam Schultz and Linsey Weber

Sam Schultz, community development director for the Village of Mount Pleasant, explains to students from Case High School on Wednesday that there’s a demand for more housing and construction jobs as Linsey Weber, deputy director of Public Works, looks over documents. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.

Rachel Kubik

Kurt has contacts in the construction industry who were willing to allow the students on-site when nudged, she said.

“They never have sites to tour,” Kurt said.

She mentioned 90% of new Kurk Concrete employees come from RUSD schools, so she wanted to make sure current students receive the best opportunities before they graduate.

“I need to foster the relationships in the development industry with those students,” she said.

Since all five sites are in different stages, students were able to see a wide variety of work in progress.

Topics covered included the increased demand for housing in the area, construction job demand, what it’s like working a construction job and some basic aspects of blue printing and receiving municipal approval for a home development.

Steenrod called the field trip “a different world” for students.

The trip showed students how jobs in various fields are connected, she said. Construction students on the field trip from Park also included engineering, automotive and manufacturing students.

Steenrod emphasized that this field trip was different from traditional classroom learning and gets students on site to see the step-by-step process.

“You get to see it upfront instead of just talking about it,” said Montae Sutton, a sophomore at Park.

Sutton said he is considering construction as an occupation after high school.

Nehemiah Walker, also a sophomore at Park, added that the field trip was “interesting.”

Drue deVente

Drue deVente, construction inspector with raSmith, speaks to Case High School students Wednesday morning at the future site of Spring Trail Condominiums from Kenosha-based developer Harpe Development, located east of the intersection at N. Stuart Road and Gina Drive in Mount Pleasant. The students visited several home construction sites during a Racine Unified School District Academies of Racine field trip.

Rachel Kubik

Wendy Kurt, office manager of Burlington-based excavating contractor RLP Diversified, said she enjoyed speaking to students and being on the job site, because usually she’s in the office.

She told a group of female students that it’s possible these days for women to work in construction.

“I’ve been around construction my entire life,” she said. “I don’t want to work anywhere else, except construction. It’s something different every day.”

Dietzman noted his mantra going into speaking to the students was: “I’ll teach you anything you want to know as long as you want to learn.

“All you’re trying to do is show them opportunities.”

“Learn something that is sought after — you will never be without a job.”

Ron Dietzman, heavy equipment operator with Excavating Unlimited


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