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Twelve Indiana teachers get hands-on experience, train in civil construction

 A man in an orange construction vest looks at a small device on top of a tripod that is used to complete surveys.
Kirsten Adair
IPB News
Indiana teachers are receiving training this week for a variety of civil construction skills.

A group of about 20 people gathered on the south lawn of the Indiana State Capitol Tuesday morning in bright orange safety vests to practice surveying. They carried hard yellow cases to shaded areas in the grass, then began to assemble long yellow tripods with laser measuring devices on top.

Twelve of those people were Indiana teachers from across the state, and this week they’re getting their hands dirty while learning about industries like surveying, limestone mining, mixing concrete, and excavating trenches.

The teachers are the students at Work IN Roads' 2023 Teacher Training. The training gives educators skills and hands-on experience to teach high school students about the construction industry.

Richard Hedgecock, Indiana Constructors, Inc. president, said three of the teachers at the training program already have civil construction pathway classes. The nine other teachers in the program are introducing the class at their schools within the next two years.

"We're hoping to show them all of the resources that are available to them from the industry, and people who are willing and able to help and support them in providing experiences for students to let them see the exciting, different things that they can do in the field as well as in the classroom," he said.

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Keith Starost, the new civil construction teacher at Triton Central High School, is launching his school’s first civil construction class this year. So far, 13 students have signed up.

Starost said ICI’s resources and expertise in his classroom will be very helpful for his class. He is most excited to learn about surveying and bridge construction.

“The amount of engineering that goes into making something not move so that people can cross it and get to where they need to go; those things are exciting hands-on and exciting real-world projects that we'll get to see this week that I get to take back to the students,” he said.

Starost said that the real-world experience is especially invaluable because of how few teachers are trained in all areas of civil construction.

"When you say civil construction, it is a massive, massive amount of different jobs and different areas of study. And there's continual learning happening all the time in each of the areas and surveying," Starost said.

That’s where this week’s training comes in.

ICI Director of Talent Development Eric Fisher said civil construction courses in schools help students get a head start in multiple construction careers and provide pathways into those industries after graduation. However, teachers must be well-trained in order for their students to reap the benefits of the programs.

“[Teachers] are going to be getting a taste of everything that goes on across the entire industry, so that way they can take those experiences back and bring them into their students’ curriculum,” he said.

Martin Klipsch, civil construction teacher at Pendleton Heights High School, said he is learning about opportunities he didn’t know about previously. This year will be his first year teaching civil construction, and he has between 15 and 20 students signed up for the class so far.

Klipsch said he is looking forward to operating construction equipment during training. However, he is most excited about how his partnerships in the industry will help his students.

“The contacts with the people out in industry that I'm going to be able to bring that back to them. That's going to be the most exciting part, I think, for me,” he said.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.

Kirsten the Indiana Public Broadcasting education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.