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Building Futures Together

Jaynes and ACE Leadership High School

A 2022 Makers Index[1] survey conducted by Stanley Black & Decker found that less than half of high school students have even considered pursuing a career in the skilled trades. Many of them don’t realize the earning potential of these jobs, don’t understand what’s required for pursuing this type of career, or have no exposure to people in these roles.

This matches with what many of us in the industry are experiencing as we try to staff our projects: for every experienced worker facing retirement, we’ll need to hire two or three young employees. And finding those workers can be a challenge.

This problem has certainly gotten a lot of attention in the last few years, thanks to the way COVID-19 has changed our relationship to the workplace, and massive infrastructure projects creating increased demand for labor. But the construction shortage didn’t just crop up overnight. Over a decade ago, Jaynes and other members of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) in Albuquerque held a strategic planning session to discuss the importance of getting young people exposed to the trades.

Born from that meeting was the decision to create a charter school that could help shore up the workforce by getting young people excited about trade skills. ACE Leadership High School was founded in 2010 in partnership with AGC.

Today, Jaynes continues to play an active role on the school board. In addition, we collaborate closely with educators to build and refine learning opportunities for the more than 200 students who find their path at this school each year.

Learning By Doing

ACE Leadership High School is a project-based program that teaches a combination of applied skills and foundational subjects through practical, hands-on learning. Students learn math, science, written communication skills, and even history in the context of real projects and problems. It’s a style of learning that makes a big difference for youth who might struggle with more traditional education. Night classes are also available for older students, up to age 22, who need to complete their diploma and gain job skills.

The curriculum was designed through collaboration with AGC, labor unions, construction companies, and other industry professionals, beginning with the question: What are the skills, knowledge, and attributes you want to see in a new hire?

From there, a graduate profile was crafted to reflect the ideal, and classes were designed to develop those skills and set students up for success.

Aside from the project-based learning components, students are also exposed to various construction roles and get first-hand job experience through shadowing and internship opportunities.

Even if they do not decide to pursue a career in construction, this kind of first-hand exposure to our field helps with keeping trade skills visible and relevant—and it gives nontraditional students a chance at success learning in a way that makes sense to them. It’s a win-win, and a program Jaynes is proud and humbled to be part of.

Reaching Out and Reaching Down

Aside from promoting trade skills and practical learning in the younger generation, our partnership with AGC and ACE Leadership High School creates opportunities for Jaynes employees and others in our industry. It’s a chance to reach out to the community and answer a need for working-class and underprivileged youth. It’s also a way to share our accrued knowledge, experience, and wisdom.

Teachers at ACE come from a diversity of backgrounds. Some began as teachers in more traditional schools before seeking the freedom and flexibility of a project-based charter. Others have a background in construction and obtained a teaching certificate to adjust out of the field and into a retirement job.

Regardless, all teachers collaborate closely with industry professionals, and there are ample opportunities for project managers, welders, engineers, and many other fields to step in and provide expertise, whether that’s a one-day seminar, shadowing a class, or developing a curriculum.

We can’t say for certain what the future of construction holds. But for the students finding their place at ACE Leadership High School, we know that our contributions have made a difference in those lives. As we continue to focus on this and other youth outreach, we help build toward a better future for our communities, our industry, and the generations to follow.


1 – 2022 Makers Index: What’s Keeping Young People from the Skilled Trades. (2022, April 14). Technical Education Post.