Most Class of 2022 high school seniors are wrapping up their post-secondary education, employment or other career plans, in addition to pursuing scholarships or other funding for the first year of those efforts.
However, one business leader encourages Class of 2023 seniors to give serious thought to what kind of occupation or career field is for each upcoming graduate. It’s not too early to start settling in on ideas and goals and figuring out how to get there, she said.
Marisa Palomo is the executive director and owner of the PENTA Building Group, which describes itself as a relationship-focused general contractor, with offices and operations in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
PENTA just wrapped up its 2022 application cycle for its scholarship program. The firm has a longstanding program available every year through several universities, including Arizona State University.
Palomo said many employees in its current base have been previous grant recipients. She wants 2023 high school graduates to start thinking about occupations now.
“We try to remove obstacles,” Palomo said. “We know construction is hard work. But starting with an education in the field makes it worth being out in the elements and in a construction environment.”
Palomo said PENTA’s outreach to high school students involves letting them know construction trades are hard but rewarding work and workers in that field are well-compensated.
“The key for us is not to try and make construction sound easy, because it’s not, and it takes months or years to see an end product,” Palomo said. “The key is to ask ‘How can we make it worth it?’
Applicants to next year’s PENTA Building Group Scholarship Program must be 2022-23 high school seniors or undergraduate freshman with fewer than 24 undergraduate credits earned. Students must have plans to enroll in full-time undergraduate study at Arizona State University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or an accredited four-year college or university in southern California for the entire 2023-24 academic year.
Students also must plan to major in construction management or civil engineering, have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or its equivalent.
PENTA gives each qualified ASU student $7,500 for their freshman year with renewable options for three additional years with a 3.0 GPA maintained and a paid internship with PENTA.
Palomo runs PENTA out of its Las Vegas office. She says construction isn’t for everyone and there are many students who get a few weeks into being outdoors in construction and decide it isn’t for them.
“It’s important for teenagers to have some access to people who have been in a field of consideration for a while, like 10 to 15 years, for questions and insights, before deciding on a career field,” she said.
There are some limits to the kind of firsthand exposure teens can get to construction, Palomo said. For example, there are sites and activities where minors aren’t allowed. However, virtual education has come a long way.
“Next year’s freshman class will mostly have grown up with virtualization,” Palomo said. “It’s a big part of their world and it’s a big part of teaching.”
One goal PENTA staff discuss regularly is to make construction more inclusive to include more races and more women, Palomo said.
“Women might need a little more industry support, for a few reasons,” she said.
ASU offers degrees in construction management and construction engineering as well as a minors in similar disciplines.
Palomo said Arizonans can learn more about the scholarship program at learnmore.scholarsapply.org/PENTA/. Signing up with start.scholarsapply.org is advised as well.
Maricopa Community Colleges offer a two-year construction management program.
West-MEC — the Western Maricopa Education Center in Glendale — is part of a public school district that provides career and technical education programs. Those include air conditioning technology, electrical trade specialty and general construction technology.
Palomo said it’s important for students to have some grounding in science and math, as fundamentals are essential.
“There has to be some building knowledge before the mentoring and on-site experience will be helpful to a student,” she said.
Palomo said there isn’t much concern that robotics or automation will eliminate the need for all workers in construction.
“You can never replace the construction mind,” she said. “At some point, all new ideas come from the human side.”