Workshop with power machines

In the August 16, 2023 edition of the Corydon Democrat, pathway teacher Jeremy Ledford was highlighted for attending the Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation to discuss strategies to build a stronger workforce. The following is the story written by editor Morgan Jemtrud.

Ledford attends conference for construction educators
At the end of July, the Indiana Construction Roundtable Foundation (ICRF) hosted teachers and administrators from across the Hoosier state to discuss strategies to build a stronger construction workforce, starting with construction education for students.

Jeremy Ledford, the construction pathway teacher with South Harrison Community School Corp., attended the conference. Ledford works out of South Central Jr-Sr High School, but his classes include students from Corydon Central as well.

The state of Indiana currently employs 165,000 construction workers across a variety of sectors. To keep up with the demand for construction work and prepare for the retirement of an aging workforce, ICRF estimates that 275,000 more workers will need to be added by 2026.

“There’s so many jobs in the construction trade, not just carpenter and laborers,” Ledford said. “There’s plumbers, HVAC, electricians…there’s a huge need.”

Ledford said there were around 50 teachers and employers at the ICF conference. Participants heard from various speakers in the construction industry including the Department of Transportation, homeowners associations and local independent builders and discussed ways to engage students and community members in pathway programs and the construction trade.

A building club was one proposed way to get younger students interested in construction, and Ledford said he is working with administration on getting such a group organized. The club would follow a template from Build Your Future (BYF), an organization dedicated to creating positive perceptions of the construction industry and promoting construction careers. The BYF club features six two-hour sessions, each focused on a different facet of construction with a lesson and activity. 

“What I’m working on this year is trying to boost interest with the younger grades because there’s a big stigma,” Ledford said. “That was addressed at the conference, the big stigma or stereotype that construction, that’s where people who aren’t smart go. Not true. That it’s just where you go if you can’t do anything else. It’s totally the opposite. (There are) lost of lucrative opportunities, lots of career opportunities in the trade.”

Ledford said he and the conference participants discussed ways to make the construction trade more diverse as women and people of color are underrepresented in the field, often due to a lack of opportunity or encouragement.

“I tell the school board and our administrators all the time I appreciate all their support because this is a building process, but they are backing us on this because they see it,” Ledford said. “I can’t say that for all corporations and schools that I talked to at this conference. Some of them, they look at this as not important, but I feel like South Harrison, they’re invested.” 

In South Harrison Community School Corp., year one of the construction path begins with the standard “Shop 101” according to Ledford. First-year construction trade while also doing hands-on shop work. In their second year on the pathway, Ledford begins teaching the students carpentry skills.

“We do a lot of module builds of walls and floors and roofs, and then we have, for the last two years and I plan on continuing, partnered with a local company that sells mini barns,” Ledford said. “(The students) will use all those things they learned in the classroom and they’ll build a couple of barns.” Once the barns are built, Ledford said they are sold to community members or taken to a sale lot.

The 2023-2024 school year is the third year of the construction pathway at South Harrison Community Schools, so this will be Ledford’s first time teaching third-year construction in South Harrison Community Schools. He said he plans to build on the skills learned in year two and work with students on the process of finishing - going from the room and framing to things like hanging drywall, installing doors and trim and painting.

I have aspirations or a goal to eventually partner with the Fuller House, talking with them, and maybe Harrison County Parks, to where maybe the third-year kids can get off-site some to do some projects,” Ledford said.

The construction program hasn’t been offered for a fourth year yet, but Ledford said his biggest goal is to build partnerships locally with employers so students are able to spend a few days a week working during their senior year of high school.

“I’m a firm believer in watching, listening and being there, you’re going to absorb,” Ledford said. “You’re going to absorb experience and knowledge…just having students there, doing what they’re allowed to do and can do while watching and listening, that’s what gets their interest.”