Podcast: Jeremy Farner on the New Architecture, Engineering and Construction Pathway Program

Pete CodellaBusiness Elevated Podcast, Talent Ready Utah


Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 5)

This podcast is the fifth in a series featuring business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. It features a conversation between the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Talent Ready Utah Director, Kimberlee Carlile, and Associate Professor of Building Design and Construction at Weber State University, Jeremy Farner.

The Business Elevated podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.



Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.


Kimberlee Carlile (0:20): Hi, my name is Kimberlee Carlile with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and I am here today with Jeremy Farner, the associate professor of building design and construction at Weber State University. Jeremy has over 26 years in the construction industry. And we are here to talk about a brand new pathway program that we have within the Talent Ready Utah Center in partnership with Weber State University.

Jeremy, welcome.

Jeremy Farner (0:48): Thank you.

Kimberlee Carlile (0:50): We are excited to have you here today. Just to get started, we’d love to hear more about this new pathway program. It’s called the architecture, engineering and construction pathway. Wondered if you could tell us a little bit about what that is.

Jeremy Farner (1:03): Sure. Thanks, Kimberlee. So this new pathway is meant to get more people into this very high demand, high wage and high potential industry that we call the architecture, engineering and construction industry or the AEC industry is what it’s called.

The idea came about four years ago, when a group of like-minded people were in a room talking about the need for a pathway to get more students considering careers in construction and design. And there was a lot of talk for many years that we really need this pathway to be developed, and we decided we would take a stab at leading. We decided we needed to have partners not only from government, but also in Higher Education, Technical College, or apprenticeship-model type education. And that in order for it to be successful, it needed to be done through the state board of education through curriculum offered in the high schools through concurrent enrollment coursework.

So, the pathway is a series of courses that a student can take as early as the ninth grade, that introduce them to this awesome industry, the AEC industry and prepare them to be able to enter the workforce even as a minor. So that was one of the things we had to work out is how do we work around the labor laws in order to allow companies to start hiring students in this pathway as early as 16.

Kimberlee Carlile (2:53): Wow, that is so incredible. I think you highlighted a few very important things with the partnerships. Not only between high schools but also at technical colleges and up through the universities and we are so excited about this pathway program. As we’ve been working on pathway programs across the state, one of the critical components is really the industry expertise and involvement. So can you tell us a little bit about what companies are involved in this, how that process came together and what their involvement has been with building this pathway program?

Jeremy Farner (3:27): Absolutely. We had a unique challenge. There are over 2500 companies across Utah that this industry touches, and those are just direct companies. They’re peripheral company, suppliers and other kinds of companies that support the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. So what we decided very first is we would work with the trade organizations. So the association of building contractors, the Association of General Contractors, the Home Builders Association, the American Subcontractors Association those types of organizations is who we brought to the table because they were able to represent all companies across the state.

We also got representation from the Department of Workforce Services. We got representation from organizations like the Design-Build Institute, or the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Building Designers, the Utah Plumbing and Heating Contractors Association. And basically, we got everybody at the table. We included the state board of education because we knew we would have to adapt some of the existing curriculum to best prepare these students to enter the workforce as early as 16, and for sure, by the time they graduate high school.

Kimberlee Carlile (4:54): Well, that is just phenomenal bringing all of the trade organizations together representing construction, architecture and engineering all across the state of Utah. I think this is definitely a program that can be very successful. Jeremy, if you wouldn’t mind telling us a little bit about how this program is going to help fill those needs. I think that’s why industry has been so involved is there’s a shortage of construction workers across the state. So how can this program help to fill their needs and help keep our economy going strong in that industry?

Jeremy Farner (5:27): Thank you. That’s absolutely the number one goal of this pathway is to widen or increase the pipeline of students entering this industry. As we know, unemployment is really low. Pretty much if you want a job, you have a job. And so we need to generate new students that are coming up through the pipeline of secondary education to start considering these types of careers. We have tried really hard to make it so that students will not have to ever repeat education. One of the things in Talent Ready Utah that’s super-critical is that we have stackable credentials. And so students can earn a certificate while they’re still in high school that is awarded through the governor’s office, recognized by industry that they are prepared to enter a high paying job either while they’re still going to school or upon graduation from high school.

After they’re granted this certificate, industry is guaranteeing a higher wage. A higher starting wage for them to work, and they are guaranteeing them internship interviews through an event that we started this year called the design-build in summer internship fair. We held it this year at Weber State. And that’s where we kicked off the pathway. And we had over 600 students, both from secondary education, as well as technical college students and university students in attendance that day. We had over 60 employers there to offer internships and talk about the opportunities that exist in our industry today. And it really got the students excited. And we’ve heard some really cool stories about students deciding that this was the pathway they were going to go after attending that event.

Kimberlee Carlile (7:40): Isn’t that awesome? I love hearing that. Jeremy, something that I love about stackable credentials is not only the opportunity for students to see what the career might be at an earlier age, but also to be able to start working on those credentials and implement the stackable credentials so that they don’t have to start all the way over if they’ve taken those classes before. But I also think it’s really important that students understand that those stackable credentials continue on as you enter into the industry and there is that career trajectory that allows them to move up to get more experience and to increase their pay. And so anyways, I just commend you and your work on this with the stackable credential piece and all of our education partners who have been participating.

Jeremy, I know that a lot of these companies have been involved in what education calls work-based learning outside of education. I don’t know if that term is used as often but essentially it’s businesses providing job shadows or internships and apprenticeships. Do we see a lot of that with the construction industry here in Utah?

Jeremy Farner (8:49): Absolutely. And I feel like that’s the way that companies can participate. That’s their skin in the game. They can provide that opportunity for a student who is looking for a job anyway and rather than having them go to work at a fast food or retail industry, why not put them to work in our awesome industry today? This is an untapped resource. We feel that we are now exposing to the construction and design industry that, hey, we can grab these kids while they’re still in high school and hook them, really is kind of what we’re trying to do and show them that this is a viable career path, one that they can support a family with, and have a very, very good life with.

And so, one of the things that we did very early on is we partnered with Keys to Success. Rick and his group there have done a great job. They’re in high schools already promoting educational opportunities, apprentice opportunities, opportunities to get into the industry that they want to be into. And that’s where we’re pushing industry to put their internship opportunities. So we want those internship opportunities to be valuable to the student. And we have worked with the state risk management to figure out a way how construction companies can hire minors in what is deemed as a hazardous job while they’re still in high school, because they’re part of this work based learning program. And we feel like all of these stackable learning opportunities, make a better employee in the long run. And so if a student say they want to be an electrician, and they go through this pathway, become an electrician. At some point, they’re going to want to become a manager, or they’re going to want to become a foreman or a supervisor, and we want them to be able to stack on to their education down the road and not have to start over.

Kimberlee Carlile (11:02): Right. I love that. That is so awesome and so important and I would say much needed and a big appeal to students and also to parents across the state. Jeremy, we talked a lot about the partners that have been involved from the industry side and even from the state side. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what education partners Weber State has been working with on this? And then also tell us a little bit about how someone can get involved at a pathway? How do they sign up or what does the process look like?

Jeremy Farner (11:32): Okay, so our partners up in the northern part of the state are, of course, the school districts. This is where the pipeline starts. So we’ve partnered with Davis, Weber, Ogden and Morgan school districts. To promote these courses, there’s a long list of courses that students can take. Some of them are offered for concurrent enrollment through Weber State University, and a student then takes that course and gets, they fulfill their high school credits through a CTE class, and they also get credit at the university. So they have that opportunity to put that towards an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree.

The other partners that we have are the technical colleges. Not every high school is going to have all of the courses that are in the pathway, but the technical colleges do. And so they already exist, and we can send a student, say they’re from Morgan High School, and they can take a CAD class from Morgan, but they can’t take the construction management one class. They can then send that student down to the Davis Technical College to take that course at the Technical College for free while they’re still in high school, and they can complete the pathway. So we started secondary education, worked through the technical colleges, we created articulation agreements with the technical colleges. So whether they took that course at Weber State University or at the Technical College, it’s the same, they can transfer back and forth. So they can work towards a certificate as a technical college, or they can transfer that, it doesn’t even really need to be transferred because it’s articulated at Weber State to work towards that associates or than a bachelor’s degree.

Kimberlee Carlile (13:25): That is awesome. Jeremy, can you tell us a little bit more about how the students can get involved or enroll in the program? How do they sign up?

Jeremy Farner (13:38): So there’s really no sign up. All they need to do is talk to their CTE director at their school. Their CTE director at their school can help guide them into the courses that are included in the pathway.

They can always go to our website, as well to learn about what classes are included. I believe we will include the link to that. But it’s weber.edu/buildingdesign/pathway. And what a student needs to do is they need to complete five semesters, of course work while in high school from ninth to 12th grade. And there’s a long list of courses that they can take anything from woodworking to welding to interior design to furniture design. Electrician one, to plumbing one, to construction management, carpentry, architecture, construction trades foundations or construction technology. The pathway is self-selected by the student. As long as they complete those five semesters or 2.5 credits in the high school system, they will earn a certificate that we will award. When we award that certificate from industry and the governor’s office, they will then declare where they’re going. So they may say, “Hey, I’m going to work for Hughes General Contractors.” Or they may say, “Hey, I’m going to continue my apprenticeship as an electrician at the Ogden Weber Tech college.” Or they may say, “I’m continuing my education at Weber State University in building, design and construction.”

So we feel like we’re setting the students up for success. And so as far as the student, there’s no way to get involved. On the other side, if industry wants to be income involved, the best thing that they can do is to work to get an internship program set up within their company and decide if they want to hire minors. They would have to create a memorandum of understanding with the school that that student is from. On that website that I provided we will have information about how to set up an internship program for a high school student. Whether that be only during the summer, which is a little easier to handle, or while the student is, say a senior in high school, and they have worked released through work based learning programs or internship programs.

Kimberlee Carlile (16:22): Well, Jeremy, thank you so much. And congratulations on this incredible partnership, bringing all those stakeholders together that you talked about. The education partners all coming together in agreement to work on this pathway. I know that this has taken months to put together, and it is going to benefit the individuals in the state of Utah that construction industry in the state of Utah. And this is something that not only impacts the construction industry, but it impacts every industry in the state and so we are very appreciative of the work that you’ve done and leading out on this and implementing the stackable credentials. And to learn more tell us one more time Jeremy, where to go to learn more.

Jeremy Farner (17:07): weber.edu/buildingdesign/pathway. Just in closing, our tagline is, we want students to find their passion. And there’s nothing more valuable than being able to drive by a structure and say, I designed that or I built that. Taking that pride and being able to go home at the end of the day and say that you were part of making our built environment better. That’s what we really feel like we’re bringing to the industry is the pride in building our future.

Kimberlee Carlile (17:46): How cool is that? That is wonderful and we’re really excited. We’ll continue to follow this pathway and provide updates and let the public know how things are going. But with that, Jeremy, thank you so much for being here today.

Jeremy Farner (18:04): Thank you.


Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.