Architecture, Construction, Engineering: The ACE Mentor Program

October 26, 2022

Classroom photo

Through a cross-industry partnership amongst Generation Success-aligned programs, Autodesk, Elkus Manfredi Architects, Nitsch Engineering, and Gilbane Building Company, the ACE Mentor Greater Boston Program held its first hybrid online and in-person cohort in August 2022 with eight student interns from  across the Boston area. Students and industry professionals collaborated to create solutions to address Boston’s current labor shortage in the construction field – a critical problem impacting many different industries and the future of the workforce.

Together, the high school students, comprising a diverse group from four Boston Public Schools, one Boston private school, one Boston charter school, as well as public schools in Brookline and Somerville, researched key roles in AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) that are most impacted by workforce shortages and then came up with innovative ideas to better market these career opportunities to young people.

Job site photo

Students engaged with each other, shared feedback as peers, and gained insights from their industry mentors. Industry mentors, alongside educators from the Boston Public Schools, provided educational workshops about AEC careers and concepts such as sustainable design, green building and technology integration. The United Way, through its BoSTEM initiative, worked with the corporate partners to provide guidance around making this learning experience relevant and culturally sustaining for the students.

“We designed this program to address not only the workforce shortages that our customers are facing, but also to highlight the vastness of opportunities that exist for young people to find meaningful and prosperous careers in the construction industry,” said Kellyanne Mahoney, Youth Programs Specialist at Autodesk. “For many roles in construction, hiring managers are looking for candidates who can prove their mastery of specific skills. They also emphasize the importance of experience and competency in non-technical skills.”

Whiteboard photo

To conclude the program, students demonstrated their communication skills by presenting their projects at Wentworth Institute of Technology and sparking a discussion to inspire others to care about this issue and take action. Students presented ideas for engaging events and community engagement opportunities to increase young people’s awareness of AEC career paths, highlighting the ability to make positive impacts on their local communities through social justice and sustainability.

As a result of these presentations, students earned a communication digital skill badge from Boston After School and Beyond to feature on college applications and/or job resumes. This was the first time Autodesk used this communications badge to develop the curriculum for an internship program. Autodesk plans to replicate the program’s success next year to continue supporting young people and preparing them for college, career and life after high school.

“By framing the program around the students demonstrating job readiness in communications disciplines, they are leaving us with a critical skillset that is applicable to almost any AEC role, as well as a mindset toward continuous learning,” said Mahoney. “As facilitators of learning, we were also more deliberate about building opportunities for discussion into each day’s program and making the teaching process more of an open dialogue with the students. This approach helped students share their thought process, become excited about these roles, and start to see themselves in AEC careers.”