Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
View from above the Construction Awareness Day.  Several booths were available for students to check out.

Construction Awareness Day:  Caltrans Steps In as a Mentor
by  Patrick Chandler
Issue Date: 06/2009

Local high school students are encouraged to expand their horizons and consider a future career in construction.

On a truly Southern Californian, sunny day, on Thursday May 7, hundreds of local high school students, wearing fluorescent green t-shirts, converged on the Central Region High School #16 construction site in South Los Angeles for the first annual Construction Awareness Day (CAD).

This event is an example of how Caltrans goes beyond just building roads.

CAD, organized by Caltrans District 7, local government agencies, non-profits, trade unions, and general contractors, was created to encourage local high school students to consider a career in the field of construction and to help bolster the economic development of South Los Angeles.

With workshop presenters from Caltrans District 7, Clark Construction, Flatiron, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Port of Los Angeles, Sun Power, and Turner Construction, the students were able to hear about the many facets of construction and what kind of jobs and skills are necessary at a construction site.

Whether working as a mason, plumber, electrician, architect, engineer, or a carpenter, the students were encouraged to consider job and career opportunities that offer good wages, benefits, growth potential, and stability.

If the jobs required a college degree, an apprenticeship, or technical training, the students were able to talk to representatives at several booths to hear first hand how to break into the career field of their choice.

During the break out sessions, Caltrans representatives placed heavy emphasis on the amount of opportunities in construction and that, in many cases, there is quite a bit of work that can be done away from the construction site.

“Construction goes beyond just the work site.  There’s planning, environmental studies, and operations,” said Deputy District Director of Construction Roy Fisher, as he led students through the stages of construction during his workshop.  Fisher described the myriad of jobs needed to complete a project. “Construction is a huge field,” he stated. “There are lots of opportunities beyond the trade jobs.”

Frank Quon, Deputy District Director of Operations, an avid believer in the necessity of giving back to one’s community, stopped by the Caltrans Public Affairs booth to throw out freeway trivia questions to the students and catch up with one of his mentees. Quon, who mentors youth at his alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno (Class of ’76), says, “Caltrans involvement in events like the Construction Awareness Day and other outreach events, is very important. Many students don’t have the same opportunities as I did. It is important for us to help students realize the opportunities that are out there for them.”

“It only takes one or two people to change your life,” said Caltrans Chief of HOV Operations Branch and Traffic Monitoring Division, Dawn Helou, who also mentors youth at local high schools. Helou as a teenager had mentors that encouraged her to reach higher. “I love talking to kids, teaching and motivating them to do more,” said Helou, who the led the Operations break out session.

The future looks bright for youth who enter the construction field. As District Director Doug Failing summarized the event by joking, “There are too many old people in our field. We need new people to lead when we are done.”

Deputy District Director of Construction Roy Fisher speaks to students about career opportunities in the construction field.
Caltrans Director Will Kempton encourages youth to strive for greatness. A recruiter from Caltrans speaks to a construction worker about employment opportunities in District 7.