ATLANTA, GA – Ask 17 construction trades students at Atlanta’s Alonzo A. Crim Open Campus High School about Jimmy Kennedy and Batson-Cook, and you’ll hear nothing but praise and accolades. Their instructor, Richard Elder, will tell you that Batson-Cook, an alliance of trade partners, and Associated General Contractors of Georgia have made his dreams come true in 10 short months.
Wondering just how that happened? Consider the convergence of the following:
- Crim High School, an open campus alternative school offering career pathway training and credit-recovery core classes, had a small, poorly-equipped space for teaching construction trades to students interested in the field. Funds for improving the situation were not available.
- Randy Hall, Batson-Cook’s president and CEO, is currently president of Associated General Contractors of Georgia. One of his initiatives is to enhance AGC’s Workforce Development Program, the purpose of which is to challenge contractors to partner with local high schools that teach construction in order to educate students about the rewards of a career in construction and create a sustainable workforce for years to come. Hall himself has served in a variety of advisory roles to college construction programs, and is acutely aware of the current shortage of construction trades craftsmen.
- Jimmy Kennedy, a project executive for Batson-Cook’s healthcare operations in Atlanta, was eager to tackle a different kind project that would benefit young people, the construction industry, and the local community.
These factors led Batson-Cook to adopt Crim as its Workforce Development partner. Jimmy took the lead and formed an alliance with two dozen Batson-Cook trade partners to build out and equip a construction lab and classroom at the high school. The group toured the facility last May, developed a plan and schedule over the summer, and began construction in October. The students worked alongside Kennedy and other alliance team members, thereby gaining valuable hands-on experience in carpentry, framing, painting, and electrical trades. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week, and the students could not have been more excited.
"Seeing the passion and enthusiasm grow in these kids as they began to grasp the variety of opportunities available to them in construction was so rewarding,” Kennedy said. “They understand now that they have a lot of choices; they aren’t limited to being a laborer in the field.”
Said Richard Elder, their instructor and the manager of Crim’s Work-Based Learning Program, “No one is leaving empty-handed anymore. Whether they want to go to college or start a career, we’re making it happen here at Crim.
“This is the only construction program in the Atlanta school system right now,” he continued. “I’ve taught construction for 33 years and have been at Crim for 13. I’ve hung in there, and I’m glad, because I finally have an avenue for the four major industry trades – plumbing, electric, masonry and carpentry – to come to class and work one-on-one with our students.”
Elder noted that student responses to the Workforce Development alliance were moving. One of two female students said, “I’ve always felt lost (in the education system), but I’ve found my calling now.” He added that a male student who has faced many challenges is “transforming before my eyes. He’s going to be president of something one day!”
“One of the goals of our alliance is to get to know the students so we can introduce them to an exciting career in construction,” Hall said. “When I saw one of the students walk up to Jimmy and say ‘Hey, I know you!’, I knew the effort was successful.
“I am very proud of our Workforce Development team and especially proud of Jimmy Kennedy,” Hall continued. “Many trade partners participated in the project, but in the end, the students did most of the work.”