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Building Up Careers in Skilled Trades at Building2Learn Builders’ Camp

Katie Muth

Many students, parents, and educators think that a four-year college degree is preferred to technical college or work in the trades after high school. Yet, the reality is the growing demand for skilled labor, combined with the rising cost of higher education makes a future in the skilled trades a bright one not to be overlooked. Studies have shown that 3 out of 4 tradespeople will make more than a college graduate will. The other 75% of college graduates will make about the same as a tradesperson or even less.

Demand for Skilled Trades

The talent pool in the construction and trade industry is drying up, yet the demand for skilled trades in Wisconsin is predicted to increase 18.81% over the next several years, according to the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. With this need for talent identified, JP Cullen has been working to get the word out that the trades are a rewarding profession offering competitive salaries and professional growth.

Building2Learn Builders’ Camp

Last week, eight JP Cullen construction experts, along with other industry professionals, teamed up with 50 middle and high school students, to build 12-foot wooden rowboats for the third annual Building2Learn Builders’ Camp – a partnership with All Hands Boatworks. Students from Messmer Catholic Schools, School District of Brown Deer, Carmen Schools of Science and Technology, UCC Acosta, St. Francis School District, and West Allis-West Milwaukee School District participated in this week-long summer builder’s camp at the Southeast Wisconsin Carpentry Training Center in Pewaukee.

The goal? For students to build the skills and work ethic involved in jobs in the skilled trades. The students learn and apply skills such as math, problem solving, teamwork, and project management to build their boats.

In addition to building the boats, students also participated in small group discussions that were lead by industry experts and professionals from JP Cullen, C.G. Schmidt, Trane Co., Harrigan Solutions, and Pieper Electric, as well as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the Operative Plasterers and Cement Mason, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Steamfitters.

All the work throughout the week, led up to a program on Saturday, where the students had a chance to show off their finished boats to their families. During the program, this video was shared that captures the building, learning, and growing the students did throughout the week.

Families watching the video that was captured of what their children learned building these boats throughout the week

Danny Goldberg, Executive Director of the B2L Consortium said, “The guidance and inspiration provided by B2L’s industry partners is a motivating factor in the career direction of many of our B2L students. For those who are serious about apprenticeships in the trades upon graduation, they have direct access to our industry partners. For those who want to pursue a college education or another direction, they have learned invaluable transferable skills that will serve them well, wherever their futures take them.”

JP Cullen Volunteers

Thank you to our experts that stepped up to help out last week: Mark Zelechowski (Carpenter Foreman), Tyler Kreuser (Superintendent), Jerry Woznicki (Senior Superintendent), Jason Labinski (Carpenter Sub Foreman), Mike Grandinetti (Carpenter), Adam Krebs (Superintendent), and Brad Jambura (Carpenter Foreman). And a special shout out to Randy Kisley, Superintendent, who served on the board and spearheaded JP Cullen’s involvement in the B2L Builders’ Camp.

“This was our best year. The single greatest difference from years before is the extraordinary generosity of the JP Cullen volunteers. The students loved it. The boat instructors loved it even more, because it gave them a chance to share the joy and wonder of doing this work,” said Goldberg.

JP Cullen’s Jerry Woznicki & Randy Kisley working with kids on building boat
Launching the Boats

Even though the camp is over, these students can continue working on building projects throughout the year through the B2L schools. The boats will be painted later this month by other students and then launched on the Menomonee River in September. In B2L’s three years, they have launched over 60 boats and not one of them has sunk! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates!

Check out the awesome craftsmanship these students put into their boats!


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May 16, 2024