In a time when construction is facing one of its greatest labor challenges, Yuliana Linares is actively participating in a program encouraging high school students to consider a professional career in the industry.
Linares, a project manager for The Weitz Company in Omaha, Neb., is using her 12 years of experience in construction to mentor teenagers through the ACE Mentor Program. She’s 1 of 4 volunteers who is offering guidance and direction to 20 students at Burke High School in Omaha.
“Burke has an Honors CAD Design and Engineering class so the ACE Mentor Program fit in well,” Linares said. “We gave the students a project that included going through the site selection, design and construction cost analysis for a restaurant. This allowed students to experience a real-world scenario as they worked through each phase of our industry.”
The project started in August 2017 and concluded with a final presentation in early May. During those 10 months, the students were responsible for managing their project between weekly visits from the ACE mentors. Linares and the other three volunteers at Burke would attend one class per week for 1 hour, 20 minutes to personally work and support the students’ project.
Between class visits, Linares offered additional insight into the construction industry by taking students on site tours of the Burke High School addition and renovation project she is managing for The Weitz Company. The ability to walk through an active jobsite to discuss design, materials and challenges further enhanced the mentorship experience.
“In working with the teacher, Ryan Hoy, he accepted every opportunity he could to take the kids out to our project. It made it a little more personal for them since it is their school,” Linares said. “We would even see students walking out along our fence at times pointing at things they were studying in the classroom. It was great to see our construction project at Burke was serving as a teaching tool.”
Linares, who has also mentored Weitz project engineers for the last two years and provides job shadowing opportunities to University of Nebraska-Omaha construction management students, may have even helped develop the program’s breakthrough resource material. Working with The Weitz Company Senior Estimator Sean Hanrahan, Linares provided a custom cost estimation spreadsheet that pushed Burke High School’s Honors CAD Design and Engineering class to a new level.
“Our kids have no experience in cost estimation for commercial construction. Yuli helped with this problem by providing a spreadsheet our kids could use to make more accurate calculations,” Hoy said. “Yuli and the other mentors also took time during class to help explain this process. It was great to move beyond just drawings or renderings and adding the problem of dealing with a budget.”
Having this spreadsheet and being taught how to utilize it enabled the students at Burke to complete full budgets for their project, which is something Linares believes may have separated them during final presentations given by all Omaha schools participating in ACE this year.
“From what I saw, Burke was the only class that had printed, detailed estimates,” Linares said. “I was really proud of them for that.”
ACE Mentor Program is a national effort in which affiliates across four regions are dedicated to engaging, exciting and enlightening high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction. The Weitz Company provides a variety of resources to ACE in four different states – Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Nebraska. The Omaha chapter is in its second year and saw its number of mentors grow to 43 this past year.
Linares believes supporting programs like ACE, volunteering time and sharing expertise in ways that will engage students and our aspiring youth is essential to reversing declining employment numbers in construction.
“Giving that exposure early on is what will drive more interest in our industry,” Linares said. “Engaging students early and getting construction in their mind as a career option is key.”