A New Approach to Recruiting: Construction Summer Camp for Girls

This summer, many girls traded tennis racquets and swimsuits for a welding torch and hardhat.

If the phrase "summer camp" evokes visions of horseback riding, campfire singalongs and days spent swimming in an idyllic lake tucked into forested mountains, you've not yet met the girls of MAGIC (Mentoring a Girl in Construction).

MAGIC hosts free, one-week summer day camps at several locations in Georgia, during which high school-aged girls learn about potential career opportunities in construction, have the chance to acquire basic skills in trades such as electrical, welding and carpentry and can earn an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification.

The camp environment, according to MAGIC, allows the girls to learn in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, build self-confidence and meet successful women who hold various roles in the construction industry, from tradesperson to project manager to engineer.

Not only do these kinds of camps — and many of them exist beyond MAGIC — introduce girls to construction, they could be part of the solution to the skilled labor shortage that continues to weigh on contractors, subcontractors and developers. According to the results of an Associated General Contractors survey released earlier this year, 73 percent of contractors polled said they anticipated hiring additional workers in 2017, but the same percentage said they expected to have difficulty finding qualified workers.

The National Association of Women in Construction, a sponsor of the MAGIC camps, also sponsors other girl-centric initiatives, such as Engineer Girl, a program that hosts a variety of summer camps and events for girls from 1st through 12th grades. Vermont-based Rosie's Girls is also NAWIC-sponsored and offers middle school and high school-aged girls in locations throughout the United States a chance to participate in STEM- and construction-related projects during a one-week summer camp. 

Some camp experiences, like the Women in Construction Management Summer Institute day program held at Colorado State University, also focus on the management side of the industry. High school girls learn from CSU construction program alumni about compressing a construction schedule using simple kitchen recipes, and they build a scale model bridge, complete with material lists and delivery schedules, using Lego bricks. Instructors also introduce the girls to current construction trends, like sustainability, and let them tinker with digital modeling and mixed-reality tools. 

A week isn't enough time to learn a trade, but it may be enough to entice girls to consider a career in construction they might not have considered otherwise.