City, FWCS tout “Concrete Relationship”

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Tom Henry along with staff and board members from Fort Wayne Community Schools, business leaders, and staff members from City Utilities, welcomed nearly 40 current and former students from the Concrete Crew of the FWCS Career Academy to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the partnership that offers students real-world experience.

“Education and hands-on learning opportunities are critical tools for young people who are getting ready to enter the workforce,” said Mayor Henry. “I value and appreciate the partnership between City Utilities and the FWCS Career Academy. By working together in career development initiatives over the past decade, we’ve seen positive results and personal growth from young people who will be our future leaders.”

Ten years ago, Mayor Henry and Kumar Menon, Director of City Utilities, were looking for ways to develop young talent to meet the hiring needs of City Utilities and the Community in the future.

Through the partnership with the FWCS Career Academy, City Utilities hired the “Concrete Crews,” comprised of students in the construction trades program to restore the concrete sidewalks and curbs that are demolished when utility crews dig to fix broken water mains and valves. It’s an essential partnership for City Utilities, and it gives the students hands-on experience with supervised educational guidance.

“We have a responsibility to partner with our schools and to provide opportunities for students to learn while working on real projects, the projects that may see in their job. For City Utilities it’s also about meeting our needs for the future and how we can fill positions that will be there forever,” said Menon.

Through the program, high school students from Carroll, Homestead, North Side, Northrop, Snider, South Side, and Wayne, attend the program at the Career Academy. The students comprise a crew and report to work for a real job with pay.

Over the ten year period, the students have completed an astonishing 180 repairs a year, nearly 1,800 during the 10-year partnership.

“The partnership with City Utilities is extremely valuable to our program. Students get the real-job experience that improves motor skills, like hand-eye coordination, to thinking skills, like finding solutions to issues that may come up in the field. They are on the job in the blazing sun or in the cold. The partnership builds leaders and helps the students prepare for their careers ahead,” said Chris Robert, Construction Trades Instructor, FWCS

“We are pleased with the results and believe this partnership is highly successful, and that’s why we wanted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our relationship,” said John Clark, Deputy Director of Operations for City Utilities. “There is a shortage of skilled trade workers throughout the country, and certainly here in Indiana and Fort Wayne. Developing talent through this partnership is essential.”

City Utilities has hired a few of the students upon graduation as have several of the construction firms in the area. Seven alumni who’ve graduated over the past ten years now own their own companies.