GFSA and NextGen Exhibit at CEFGA CareerExpo
The Georgia Fire Sprinkler Association (GFSA) recognizes the undeniable need for the next generation of fire sprinkler professionals in our industry. In search of a solution, GFSA met with the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia’s (CEFGA) President and CEO Scott Shelar who encouraged GFSA members to get involved with his organization. CEFGA understands the skilled labor shortage and provides construction companies with reliable, productive workers through the Construction Ready program and a K-12 pipeline to train and encourage the future talent of tomorrow.
By partnering with the CEFGA, GFSA participated in the CareerExpo and SkillsUSA event in the spring of 2018. This impressive event attracted approximately 5,500 students; 1,200 influencers (teachers, parents, counselors and school administrators); and 1,600 industry volunteers and exhibitors all focused on careers in the construction industry. It was comprised of 18 industry “worlds” and had 400 high school and technical college students competing in 20-plus SkillsUSA contests. It also gave employers a way to engage with young people and connect to their future workforce. By linking students directly to professionals in the areas of construction, CEFGA’s CareerExpo gets young people excited about the industry and helps ensure the new generation is aware of the many career opportunities. GFSA members knew this was exactly the type of event in which they wanted to be involved.
The GFSA’s NextGen Committee created a workgroup to head up the project. The workgroup included President Patrick Cordi, Wiginton Fire Systems; Mindy Buckley, Allsouth Sprinkler Company; Chris Conway, Palmetto Automatic Sprinkler Company (PASCO); Scott Donnelly, Challenge Fire Protection; and Terry Pickvet, Atlanta WinSupply. The NextGen committee, workgroup, and local contractors – Allsouth Sprinkler Company, Century Fire Protection, PASCO, and Wiginton Fire Systems – were able to team up to create, for the first time ever, a “World of Fire Protection,” and it was a huge success! The two-day event was held at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta and we were able to inform thousands of students, teachers, and counselors about the importance of fire sprinklers. In addition to the contractors above, it would not have been possible without the support and contributions from Ameripipe Supply, Atlanta WinSupply, Challenge Fire Protection, Core and Main, Dixie Construction Products, Globe Sprinkler, Harry Warren of GA, Pro-Tec Fire and Safety, Reliable Sprinkler, The Lubrizol Corporation, Johnson Controls, and Viking SupplyNet, that either sent representatives; donated or loaned hands-on display items; and/or provided labor and materials to help spread the word about careers in our industry.
Inside the “World of Fire Protection,” GFSA included a 10-ft x 10-ft display structure
built with complete systems, demonstrating a CPVC and steel pipe installation including riser manifold and branch lines with sprinkler heads. With this, several different valve displays, and power and hand tools, students were able to work hands-on with all different components of fire sprinkler systems. Each of the four contractors had their own table set up with pictures, displays, and giveaways. Two tables in the center provided printed educational information and supplier and manufacturer goodies for students to pick up. A raised scissor lift displayed AFSA’s scholarship information and there was a table that displayed the NextGen banner with chairs around for students to sit down one-on-one with the many eager industry professionals to educate them about careers in fire protection. With the combined efforts of all, there was much interest in the fire sprinkler industry and many students wanting more information on how to move forward with a career.
By participating in this event, GFSA’s NextGen was able to reach out to the many students and, more importantly, teachers and counselors to let them know that there are many opportunities for fulfilling and rewarding careers in the fire sprinkler industry, whether in contracting by installing, designing, or selling sprinkler systems installations, or in engineering, manufacturing, fabrication, material distribution, research, and development.
During the event, Stuart Weeks, president of the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Association, paid a visit to learn about the event, chat with students, and talk about becoming involved in a similar event in his area. Since then, Mindy Buckley and Anthony Spencer, along with the rest of the AFSA National NextGen Initiative, are working to finalize a career guide template that will be available to anyone interested in planning or attending a career fair such as this in the future.
GFSA members are proud to have presented the World of Fire Protection and look forward to participating in this event in the spring of 2019. Coordination has already begun with CEFGA and the local fire department to bring a side-by-side burn demonstration to the event. The presentation will be the most powerful way to demonstrate the importance of fire sprinklers and show how rewarding a profession saving lives and protecting property can be. Ideas for next year include featuring more of the design and engineering career paths and showcasing a large valve trailer and fire pump for more hands-on participation. We anticipate more contractors and volunteer presence and know that GFSA’s NextGen will be able to make even more of an impact with next year’s event. GFSA’s NextGen members look forward to future collaborations to bring talent to the fire sprinkler trade. CareerExpo was a huge success in recruiting young talent, and we look forward to finding other pathways to continue to broaden the awareness of a profession in our industry
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mindy McCullough Buckley is the office manager for Allsouth Sprinkler Company in Buford, Georgia. She is a member of GFSA and AFSA National’s NextGen Initiative workgroup. For more information about the event or GFSA, email Mindy Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
\AFSA’s NextGen Initiative is for fire sprinkler industry professionals 40 years and under. To find out more details and get involved, visit firesprinkler.org/nextgen.