Our View: Mentors will build relationships and more

As the proverb says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." But, what if the man doesn't like fish?

It's that kind of question that will be answered for students interested in the building trades early next year. Partnering with Rochester Area Builders, the construction program at the Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz, or CTECH, will pair each student with a mentor in a chosen trade specialty — engineer, architect or carpenter.

Jayne Gibson, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Rochester Public Schools, said the goal is to connect the 18 to 20 students already in the program with mentors who can help them understand how what they are learning in the classroom is applied in the workplace.

It's a concept that should serve the CTECH program and the community well. Too often students are left with questions about how their classroom lessons will be used. With plans to require regular communication with mentors, students in the construction career pathways should have easy access answers about their potential futures.

Taylor Ridderbusch, public affairs director for Rochester Area Builders, said he expects those regular communications also will help students discover unknown opportunities in the various construction fields. "Maybe it's something they didn't know they could do for a career," he said.


Ridderbusch noted the benefit isn't one-sided. With construction activity increasing in the region, he said builders are always looking for ways to build a quality workforce. "These are companies and businesses that are hurting, and they are looking for people," he said.

Helping train the area's future workers helps build more than homes; it also helps build relationships that can strengthen the local industry's future by showing potential workers that there is a place for them and that they are worthy of investment.

While the mentorship program is just getting off the ground, we see promise in growing the potential connections beyond the construction pathway.

Gibson said that's the plan. Construction students are simply the first to benefit because they are already on the path through CTECH, and Rochester Area Builders has been able to recruit a variety of mentors.

Mentors for other career pathways likely will be recruited as needed.

The health science career pathway, which will include nursing, lab work and other options, already has options for mentoring and job shadowing in the high school, Gibson said. It's not surprising due to the city's unique status in the medical field, but we expect the opportunities to grow as CTECH programs grow.

The hospitality industry may be prime to be the next addition. As a variety of industry-related conversations examine staffing and other needs as Rochester seeks to attract new visitors in the coming years, Gibson said students will start on the hospitality career pathway next fall.

Like the construction industry, hospitality careers can cover a variety of skills. Mentors will be crucial to help a student find the right niche that can lead to a successful career.


When it comes to the hospitality industry, or any of the other potential pathways — agriculture, manufacturing, information systems and engineering — the region has a wealth of knowledge to offer students through people running businesses and working in the field. That knowledge can be tapped once the right connections are made.

We expect as new CTECH programs are started, more organizations will follow in the builders' footsteps, and we hope those who are stepping up this spring will help create a solid path to follow.

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