Attracting young people to careers in the design and construction fields is critical given predicted labor shortages. The ACE Mentor Program is a national educational and mentoring program that exposes high school students to careers in architecture, construction and engineering (ACE).
The ACE Mentor Greater Milwaukee program was recently formed by several Milwaukee-based companies with Grunau Company Inc. President and CEO Bill Ball among the program’s six founding board members. “Launching the ACE Mentor Chapter of Greater Milwaukee is a significant and progressive achievement in our community which gives local high school students a hands-on approach to learn about the exciting fields of architecture, construction and engineering,” Ball said.
Grunau is one of four founding Milwaukee organizations participating in the program for the
To the right, the ACE engineering team for Innovation Alley, learns how to design a steel column,
and left, the architecture team develops a floor plan.
2017/2018 school year. Representatives from each company provided mentoring in their respective specialties: Grunau, mechanical trades; Hammel, Green & Abrahamson Inc. (HGA), architecture; Thornton Tomasetti, structural engineering; and Gilbane Building Company, construction management.
Like ACE chapters in other cities, the Milwaukee program is an after-school program open to high school students of all grades, and the program is divided into two eight-week segments, for fall and spring, with volunteers from the industry serving as mentors.
From learning the basics of safety and construction management to designing a steel column and floor plans, students from three Milwaukee high schools are exposed to all major elements of construction. The ACE Milwaukee pilot program kicked off last October with students touring the new Milwaukee Bucks arena under construction and attending introductory sessions about each specialty. They also learned about a real building project to plan in teams by specialty: student teams were assigned to design major aspects of a new business school at Marquette University, known as Innovation Alley, as a local chapter competition.
After the holiday break, the students rolled up their sleeves in working sessions and made a site visit to the Marquette campus while mentors provided guidance. “The mentors attended the weekly meetings, working with the students and other mentors. After each specialty session, the students did an activity tied to the lesson,” said Emily Dvorsky, design engineer at Grunau and ACE mentor. Dvorsky taught a class on mechanicals and guided students through the mechanicals design process for Innovation Alley.
Working in project teams, the students’ efforts culminated in group presentations in late March 2018 at Marquette University. The presentation was well attended and included a visit from Milwaukee’s mayor. Both ACE National and Marquette University representatives were impressed with the quality of work the students completed during the eight weeks of working sessions.
“Everyone was blown away by the large amount of work the students put into the competition. One of the parents said their daughter had never considered going into an engineering field before this program; now she wants to go into mechanical engineering,” Dvorsky said.
The ACE Mentor program also sponsors a national competition which many established chapters participate in. By all accounts, the ACE Milwaukee chapter is off to a strong start. “Our mentors and community partners are doing a fantastic job of highlighting the challenging, rewarding and purposeful careers that the construction industry has to offer,” Ball said.