Since 2015, Blenker Companies’ partnership with the Waupaca High School Comet Program has helped students get a leg up in the construction industry.
According to Dave Larson, an instructor at Wapauca High School, the program has helped 50 students overall enter the workforce, and specifically with Blenker Companies, Inc., it has been benefited 18 students get a head start in the industry.
Larson said the program provides a level of training that’s more hands on than they can provide, such as the ability to work with electricians side-by-side.
Jason Blenker, president of Blenker Building Systems, said the partnership helps showcase the opportunities that exist in the construction industry.
“We feel that the construction industries have not been given much exposure in the last 20 plus years, as most schools have promoted college education as the goal for students leaving the high school,” Blenker said.
Some will require additional education, but not all will require college or student loan debt.
“The ‘Student Loan Crisis’ as some call it is caused by students taking on too much debt for jobs that either don’t exist or don’t pay enough to repay the loan payments,” Blenker said. “It is my opinion that there are many career opportunities out there that don’t require mountains of debt in order to have a career and a good job. We are trying to expose those students to what is out there.”
The partnership allows Blenker Companies, Inc. to engage with the next generation and have a conversation with youth about the opportunities that the construction industry provides, and specifically the opportunities that they have at their company.
Blenker Companies, Inc. has purchased the lot for the students to build the house on, provided the home plan, provided all of the framing materials as well as providing the excavation, the foundation, the siding, roofing, interior doors, cabinets, and trim.
With help from students, they’ll be able to put it all together.
So far, Blenker Companies, Inc. has helped build three Comet homes through this partnership.
“We are also providing occasional instructors or speakers to come in and work with the class to ensure that they are doing it properly,” Blenker said. “I hope that they learn some skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives, [and] I hope they gain a better understanding of the construction industry and all of the things that it has to offer,” Blenker said.
Blenker Companies, Inc. is offering youth apprenticeships to those students interested, allowing them to work for a few hours and get credit for it, as well as get paid for it.
“Our hope is that we can build a model that we can share with schools that would want to provide this learning opportunity for their students,” Blenker said. “It will take a few years to be able to fully develop a model that is perfected, but my hope is that we can bring the basic foundation to other districts and engage other companies to show the opportunities that this industry has to offer.”