In two months, hordes of would-be craft superintendents and construction CEOs will again descend on a unique training facility in Tempe, Ariz., to perfect skills in backhoe operation, bid preparation and workforce management, among other key industry tasks. These prospective managers may be only 4 ft tall and in elementary school, but they wield hardhats, solar panels, business plans and Palm Pilots like the seasoned professionals program boosters hope they choose to become.
The program is sponsored by the national Junior Achievement (JA) organization, which seeks to educate young students, particularly minorities and those at risk of dropping out of school, in “real world” subjects such as job seeking, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Instruction is both in class and at 28 interactive sites around the U.S. that simulate how businesses work in a typical American town. The learning labs, known as “BizTowns,” have for years allowed fourth-through-sixth graders to spend a half-day experiencing career and business fields such as banking, media and travel, but construction was not included until now.