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The Power of Passion

Workforce Development

By Kirstyn Quandt, Communications Manager for NCCER, from NCCER blog

When you’re new to the construction industry and sit down with Dr. Mittie Cannon, you can’t help but feel inspired. Her undeniable passion and unwavering commitment to empowering young women is proof that we, as an industry, are capable of great change. As craft professionals, we live for the “wow, if I had only known I could do this” moments of brilliance when individuals realize the immense depth of our industry and the many pathways available for career success; Dr. Cannon creates them.

For the second year in a row, Power Up: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing, challenged the perception of women in construction. Fueled by Dr. Cannon’s personal passion to address the labor shortage and her own experiences in the industry, this innovative event works diligently to attract, educate and retain youth. “I have not faced struggles in the industry myself, but I want to make sure that when young girls who are interested in construction knock on the door, myself or any other industry professional is there to answer it and any of their questions,” said Dr. Cannon. “That is where the real progress begins.”

Individuals are often deterred away from careers in construction due to a lack of information. Power Up provides an informative setting for young women and their mothers to learn about the industry and the lucrative, viable careers available for those interested. With the overarching goal to educate, empower and encourage young women to explore an industry bursting with opportunity, this event is a catalyst for positive, lasting change in the lives of not only the young women, but anyone in attendance.

With such great success at the event’s launch in 2016, plans were drafted to create a place where women could practice their skilled crafts. In August of the same year, the newly developed Academy of Craft Training welcomed their first class of aspiring young professionals. Now, after a year of planning and enhanced recruitment strategies, multiple states are expressing interest in this progressive program.

“People are interested, the word is getting out and relationships are being made. They understand the value of what this event can bring.” Evidenced by the vast increase in community volunteers and the rising number of event donations from local businesses, Power Up’s effect is viral- just as Dr. Cannon had always intended it to be.

“People are continually amazed by the ‘things’ you can do in construction and that it’s more than ditch digging and hammering nails,” remarked Dr. Cannon. “Just like other industries, we need financial, business and legal backgrounds to make it all happen.” While many initiatives are developed and events are held to educate youth, we tend to stop there and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. But the real progress is made after the due date. Dr. Cannon emphasized that in order to continue making progress in our industry we need strong follow up and commitment to continuous improvement.

“We need to keep it in their face and keep it in their space,” said Dr. Cannon. In order for anything from an event, recruitment campaign or career day to stick and be sustainable, we have to get creative and immerse youth in our industry. Then, this motivation and commitment must carry through the entire process. Just when we think we’re on the cusp of ground-breaking greatness, we must work even harder to sustain and improve our outreach.

Nayla Stubbs, a welding student from Fairfield High Preparatory School said, “It was amazing to see how everything came together and I enjoyed being a part of something that big. Hopefully I get the chance to do it again next year.” Power Up is proof that our skills gap is not permanent. It can be overcome and filled with hardworking individuals but it requires an industry-wide commitment. With our combined passion for the crafts and innovative thinking, anything is possible. Just ask Mittie.

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