Two Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participants who are studying Applied Engineering at Valencia College this year have been selected for an internship opportunity that is making a significant impression in their U.S. host community. In addition to their academic coursework at Valencia, Kwame Dewortor (Ghana) and Phuti Dipela (South Africa) will also spend this spring semester learning outside the classroom in their internships as Teaching Assistants for the Construction Training Program at Valencia College.
The Construction Training Program is a unique six-week accelerated program that provides a vocational education to students seeking to enter the construction field. Specifically, it provides low-income people in the greater Orlando community—who have little to no formal education and limited resources to attend college—with the means to supplement their education and obtain three different certifications in the field. By providing students with hands-on skills in the construction field, the program helps people acquire skills, jobs, and a vested interest in the growth of their community.
As Teaching Assistants, Kwame and Phuti oversee safety during lab work and model build sessions in active construction sites for the program. In addition, they help grade papers, aid instructors, and supervise and assist the students participating in the program. This opportunity not only allows Kwame and Phuti to develop skills that they can use when they return home, but it also provides an opportunity for them to help people in their U.S. host community secure jobs through improved vocational skills.
Of his experience so far, Phuti said, “It is very exciting to be part of this program because it allows me to explore the best of both worlds: giving back to the community while simultaneously augmenting my professional development within construction.” When asked about his favorite part of the program he responded, “interact[ing] with the trainees during class, exchanging ideas for solving problems, and [discussing] the future of our field.”
The Construction Training Program is a program at Valencia College that operates out of the Continuing Education Department and works in conjunction with the City of Orlando and the University of Central Florida. The program’s curriculum was developed in partnership with local industry leaders, which means local U.S. students in the program are being trained in the exact skills and trades that dozens of companies in the area are hiring for.
This pilot program has garnered a lot of interest around Orlando. The Vice Presidents at Valencia College came and spoke with the CCI cohort at Valencia to personally thank Phuti and Kwame for their service, and the local news even aired a featured story about the program.
Kwame and Phuti are both proud to be a part of a program that allows them to grow, but also give back, and are excited to gain skills that could increase their employability back home. They are also interested in seeing how they can bring their new skills in construction back home to their communities and model the mission of the Construction Training Program. Even after just a few weeks in the program, Kwame said “Professionally my understanding in construction has increased and I have developed more leadership skills with improved communication skills. … I plan on replicating something similar when I get back home to give back to my community.”