Having been intel corp.’s director of construction for 12 years, Tom Weise could have retired, in 2008, to a life of leisure in sunny Arizona. But with a key industry mission still ahead, that’s not what he had in mind.
Instead, Weise embarked full time on a new career, to ensure that industry firms and the owners for whom they work don’t run short of future craft and management talent. The vehicle for his crusade is Junior Achievement (JA), the world’s largest program to educate K-12 students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. More than 4 million U.S. students participated last year
Weise had long pushed Intel’s financial support of JA’s Tempe, Ariz.-based program. In 2009, he set out to promote construction as a career option to elementary school participants in JA’s Tempe learning lab, the first such program at any of JA’s 23,000 U.S. sites.
Building a program for kids in Junior Achievement to experience construction careers, for the first time nationally, has been Weise’s full-time job.
Weise marshalled funding and volunteers from local firms, unions and associations to build, equip and staff a new 6,000-sq-ft facility that allows Arizona students each school day to simulate a construction site or an industry business, and to build skills in everything from backhoe operation to bid preparation and invoice management. With Weise’s efforts and industry donations, Arizona students now test bulldozer simulators and are the first in any JA program in the U.S. to wield Palm Pilots. “Children get very enthusiastic when they put on those hard hats,” says Weise. “Our goal is to create a talent pipeline in the fourth grade.”
Despite the economy, Weise aims to raise funds and support to bring construction to JA learning labs nationwide. “Tom has a real passion for teaching kids,” says Joyce Richards, Junior Achievement of Arizona president. “He’s like an octopus, reaching out in every direction.”