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CPI students complete commercial building thanks to Chief Foundation

The sights and sounds inside the construction technology work area at Career Pathways Institute on Adams Street were a little different than normal during the past few weeks. Students typically work primarily on residential construction. A partnership with a local industry leader has changed the typical.

"We've been putting up a steel commercial construction building donated by The Chief Foundation and coordinated by Chief Construction. The partnership between the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation and The Chief Foundation made this project a reality," said Brett Forsman, CPI Construction Technology teacher.

For Chief, it was an easy decision to donate to Grand Island Public Schools and CPI students.

"There were two main reasons driving us to do this," said Mark Moravec, Chief Construction Business Development Manager. "First, it is about supporting this program, the students and the school. Giving these kids the opportunity to experience this type of work has always been important.

"Second, at Chief Construction we are growing fast by growth depends on having more employees capable to do the work. This helps us develop those workers."

Before the students could learn to potentially be those workers, Forsman had to learn new skills himself.

"I didn't have experience with commercial construction, so I had to grow professionally," he said. "It has been a learning curve. I've had fun learning alongside the kids. I was used to reading blue prints for residential construction ... not so much with commercial."

Students also enjoyed learning the different aspects of commercial construction.

"It's kind of like building a house, in that we see it from start to finish. There is something different each day," said Kyrell McIntosh, Grand Island Senior High junior. "But it is a lot different than residential. The materials, blueprints and tools are different. It forces us to pay closer attention to the details of the plan."

Forsman said the kids have really bought into the project and being able to learn with their teacher.

"Some teachers believe they have to know everything. For me it is fun learning with the kids," Forsman said. "We will be looking at a problem, talking out ideas and - BOOM! - a lightbulb goes off. We solve the issue and move on. When I don't know an answer to give the kids, it forces them to think deeper to solve the problems."

The entire process is different from residential construction.

"Commercial construction is not as fluid as residential," Forsman said. "On residential, everyone can get busy working on the site. With commercial, it is step-by-step. It seems slow for us because it is a different process."

McIntosh agreed.

"This is something different," he said. "But it's a really good opportunity."

Opportunity is a word both Forsman and Moravec used often in describing this project, it's purpose and Career Pathways Institute in general.

"You never know what piques a kid's interest," Forsman said. "Exposure to more opportunities is a part of the GIPS learning process. We're giving kids exposure to more options in construction."

Moravec said he has been excited about the opportunities CPI provides not just for students to learn now, but for what it does for them down the road.

"These skills equal really good wages as professionals," he said.

He said Chief has opportunities for college students to intern during the summer and also offers a tuition reimbursement program.

"A project like this can plant the seed for a CPI student to consider commercial construction as a career," Moravec said.

It is certainly something McIntosh understands.

"By knowing the skills now - actually experiencing it - training when you get on the job won't be a huge disruption to the project," he said.

McIntosh said he wants to find a job in construction, either residential or commercial, after high school and "eventually go to college for construction management."

"This has opened my eyes to options beyond residential," he said.

The programs Chief has in place for college students and college graduates are potentially the next steps for students like McIntosh. The hope is they come back to Grand Island and fill good, skilled jobs in our community.

"It's really bringing our interest in CPI and our investment in students full circle," Moravec said.

Chief has been a supporter of CPI from the beginning, said Traci Skalberg, executive director of the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

"Chief Industries has been a fantastic partner both financially and professionally for Career Pathways Institute since the first conversations began," Skalberg said. "This project is just another example of their investment in our kids and our community."

Forsman agreed.

"Without our industry partners that we value so much, we would not be doing much to cater to commercial construction," he said. "We wanted to give students exposure to commercial construction side of industry. It helps the students. It helps the community. It helps our partners, like Chief."

Moravec said there is another vital component.

"It takes a teacher like Brett Forsman to make things like this happen," he said.

Forsman said this is just what CPI is all about.

"The biggest thing with this pathway is giving students one more pathway to go into in construction," Forsman said. "Commercial is a need as much as residential."

If students take what they learn from Forsman at CPI and the opportunities that come their way with partners like Chief, they will have a bright future. This isn't lost on McIntosh.

"I'd like to give a huge thank you to Chief for supporting us and giving us exposure to these skills so we can go into the world and know what we want to do," he said.

"It gives us a head start."

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