2013 marks 28 years of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange (SRBX) Design Build program. The program was developed to get young people interested in the building trades and learn real-world construction skills.
Wayne Johnson of Johnson Scaffolding, an original organizer of the event, was one of its biggest proponents; Skyline Scaffold continues his legacy, representing the scaffold industry at the regional competition.
Scaffolders and construction workers learn most of their skills through hands- on learning in the field, under the watchful eye of a foreman. For the last 28 years, SRBX and the Construction Industry Education Foundation in Sacramento, Calif., has fostered teaching these skills to local high school students through their Design Build program.
With the central theme being “Learn by Doing,” the program involves 14 to 16 teams of high school students from the Sacramento region who train for the competition throughout the year.
There are long hours and tons of hard work by both the students and instructors that conclude with the capstone competition. Many schools treat this as a sport alongside others in their curriculum; students are expected to maintain good grades with time before or after school dedicated to practicing and learning the construction-based skills needed for the program.
Participating students design and construct a full-scale structure complete with all necessary structural and exterior elements. The students work within a given set of parameters that detail size, specifications, (the number of windows, doors, electrical outlets, and so on), and timeframe they will have to build the project. All of the planning, design, and construction must be done by the hands of the participating students who are anywhere from 12 to 18 years old.
The program culminates with a two-day building competition, held in the spring, where teams build their projects side-by-side. All of the teams arrive early the first day to locate their site, get organized, and take stock of the materials, furnished by SRBX and sponsors, before the kick-off safety meeting. By 8 a.m., the competition is underway and the judging begins.
Volunteer judges from Sacramento’s construction industry walk through the sites judging site logistics, teamwork, construction methods, and the quality of the final product. On-site safety professionals ensure that the event’s perfect safety record lives on.
The students work until 5 p.m. the first day and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second day, at which time the scores are added up, winners are determined, and the awards ceremony begins.
Among the awards given is the Wayne Johnson Safety Award, which is awarded to the student participant safety person who best emulated safe work practices.
The mood is celebratory for all involved as all the students, regardless of winning, feel a sense of accomplishment, courtesy of two hard days of work and a completed structure to show for it.
To benefit their program, some teams raffle off the structures when they get back to their schools, while some teams make structures that serve their schools, such as a greenhouse or storage shed for a sports team.
Scaffold Industry Bats
The SRBX kicks off the annual pro- gram with an orientation in the fall of each year to explain the program, cur- rent parameters of the competition, and key dates. SRBX also coordinates outside safety training for the teams throughout the year.
In 2013, the SRBX safety director noted a lack of scaffolds being used at the competition, later revealing that the root cause of this could be traced back to a lack of training.
Stepping up to the plate, Skyline volunteered to teach basic scaffold erection and user hazard awareness to all 14 teams throughout the region, coordinating with each team across the valley to provide a one-hour block of instruction on scaffolds.
With teams that already had scaffolds, the specific system they were using was incorporated into the train- ing, with pointers given on missing equipment and equipment condition among other items of note. At the completion of the training each team was given a multi-function scaffold to use in the competition and take back to their schools to use in the class- room environment.
Aside from the design and construction skills they learn, the student participants gain an understanding of working towards a goal planning, organizing, and implementing that plan with teamwork, determination, and acquired skills—real-world skills that will benefit them no matter what field they eventually choose.
Additionally, the program serves as a positive promotion of the construction trades building industry. As students learn the processes and see the results of hands-on, hard work, they tend to gain an appreciation for the construction industry that may translate into the pursuit of a career in design, engineering, or construction.
This program continues to be a great event that illustrates to youth the rewards of hard work, and it serves as a platform for the industry to educate its potential future workforce with the skills needed on today’s jobsites.