More than 200 students from predominantly Hispanic South Texas high schools spent a week learning about possible career paths while attending the summer 2016 Texas A&M Construction Management Academy, designed and led by university construction science professor Edelmiro Escamilla.
The academy, which introduces students to educational opportunities in the Department of Construction Science, addresses a lack of diversity among industry managers in Texas, said Escamilla.
“Hispanics compose 60% of the state’s industry workers, but only 8.5 percent of those are managers,” he said.
At each of the academy’s seven one-week sessions, six at Texas A&M International University in Laredo and one in the border community of La Joya, Texas, Escamilla and Texas A&M construction science students introduced the high schoolers to reading construction plans, scheduling, estimating, jobsite safety and construction technology while leading activities focused on decision making and people management.
Students in each session visited the headquarters of construction companies in Houston or San Antonio, where company representatives gave them firsthand accounts of what construction managers do.
On the final day, participants toured Texas A&M’s College Station campus and heard presentations by construction science faculty.
The academy’s 216 participants were each offered a $1000 scholarship to attend Texas A&M as a construction science major, said Escamilla.
“It’s part of the department’s effort to provide a pathway to a career that most of these students didn’t know existed before attending the academy,” he said.
The students’ parents were invited to an orientation dinner on the first night of each session and had a chance to join their kids on chartered bus trips to construction companies and Texas A&M, where they got to spend a night in a dorm.
“I wanted campers’ parents to make connections with the industry and Texas A&M too,” said Escamilla. “We encouraged them to visit with construction science students and learn about preparing for college and the university experience.”
The 2016 academy, free to participants, was funded by the Texas A&M Department of Construction Science and GEAR UP, a U.S. Department of Education program that aims to increase the number of students from low-income families who attend college. GEAR UP stands for gaining early awareness and readiness for undergraduate programs.
Assisted by GEAR UP, the department will remain in touch with academy students this fall, passing along news about construction education at Texas A&M and reminding them about registration deadlines, said Escamilla.
Plans are also under way for another Texas A&M Construction Management Academy next year, he said.
Additional sponsorship for the program was offered by industry sponsors including Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, Brandt Mechanical, Joeris, Marek Brothers Systems, Inc., Satterfield & Pontikes, SpawGlass and Urban Oaks Builders.