More than five years ago, when Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay began the construction academies in Lake County schools, Leesburg High School started with fewer than 50 students. At that time, Ms. Kornegay and her team aggressively pursued grant funding from the state with a vision of providing training and certification programs for students who were not college-bound and to help supply workers to a local surging construction industry.
Superintendent Kornegay understood that construction in Central Florida would provide long-term growth opportunities for her students. No one could have predicted the success of these programs.
With construction academies now at Leesburg High School, South Lake High School, Eustis High School, and an HVAC academy at Umatilla High School, these programs are truly excelling.
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Just last year, these construction academies built three homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter as well as provided thousands of hours of hands-on training for students. In addition, the partnership with the Academy of Construction Technology program, a state recognized high school apprenticeship program, dozens of students held summer jobs in construction related fields.
Much of the success of these programs can be attributed to the private partnership that Superintendent Kornegay forged in the beginning of the Leesburg program. She understood fully that students need the mentorship and the support of professionals in the local construction community if the district's goals were to be achieved.
Even during the pandemic this support would be instrumental in keeping these programs viable while others floundered.
These construction programs are growing, which is good, but community support is needed
Here is the dilemma: These programs have exploded with new students, as many non-college bound students understand that rewarding, high-paying careers await them with no student debt. For the new class year of 2022-2023, Leesburg High School has over 300 students enrolled in the construction academy, South Lake High School has 110 students with Eustis High School tallying 120 students in their program, and there are 130 students enrolled in the Umatilla High School HVAC program.
That is over 600 students who are seeking training in the construction fields in Lake County, and with the current dire labor shortage in construction, this is good news for all.
With this huge number of students, there is an urgent call to the local construction industry for your support. Leesburg High School has added a second instructor for the school year, but it is imperative that professionals in the local construction industry aid the local construction academies. If you are a current or retired person in the construction related fields, here is how you can help:
All academies need mentorship to work on the Habitat for Humanity jobsites and classrooms to train students in real world construction applications. Your experience is desperately needed.
The construction academies need your support for additional tools, equipment and construction supplies in all scopes from foundations, electrical, plumbing, masonry, and construction.
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter need your mentorships on the jobsite with these students as well as financial support as these housing programs cost more when students are the primary source of labor. Building these Habitat for Humanity houses is instrumental in the program's success.
The School District has created a Lake County Construction Academy Advisory Group that needs local construction leaders to provide their knowledge and innovative ideas to enhance the programs and meet the needs of the students.
Finally, these construction programs are among the most successful in the nation. If you have political connections, either state or nationally, as grant money becomes more plentiful to support workforce training, your assistance in securing funding will help further the training of local students for high-paying good jobs in an overall CTE program for Lake County.
The vision of Superintendent Kornegay and her private community partners has made the construction academies in Lake County the envy of the state, but the local construction industry is needed more this year than ever.
There is a huge need in Central Florida for new tradespeople, and these programs are meeting the needs. Please lend your help today.
If you can help, here is some contact information
If you would like to assist any of the construction academies, please consider joining the Lake Country Construction Academy Advisory Group by contacting Lynnea Weisman, the college and career program specialist at the Lake County School District, at WeissmanL@lake.k12.us or 352-253-6879.
If you would like to participate in the construction academy student construction projects with time or resources, please contact Danielle Stroud, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-483-0434.
Please support local construction education.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the "Around the House" Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.
This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: Construction students in Lake County, Florida need industry support