Shippensburg University, F&M Trust partner to create new Introduction to Construction program

27 February 2024- Shippensburg University’s Office of Workforce Development recently hosted its first Introduction to Construction program designed for those seeking a career in the industry. The university partnered with F&M Trust, a community bank headquartered in Chambersburg, for two years to develop the program and to recruit construction industry partners to teach the curriculum.

The comprehensive four-day program for underemployed or unemployed adults prepared participants for entry-level roles in the field and included courses in construction fundamentals, site safety protocols, and industry-specific terminology. Participants in the program, held at the university in late February, also honed career-readiness skills such as resume building, interview preparation, and professional communication.

Lorelee Isbell, Associate Vice President, Career and Workforce Development, for Shippensburg University and Laura Potthoff, Business Development Officer for F&M Trust, were joined at the Introduction to Construction networking event by Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger.

“The construction industry in South Central Pennsylvania is growing. With a state and federal investment in infrastructure and economic growth in this region, construction jobs are going to steadily increase over the next 10 years,” said Lorelee Isbell, Associate Vice President, Career and Workforce Development, for Shippensburg University. “Providing the potential workforce with durable, digital, and technical skills is necessary to ensure that these jobs will be filled.

The program, which was open to 25 students, was supported by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and made possible by a $275,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. Supported 100% by federal funds, the program was part of the university’s South-Central Career Development and Readiness Initiative which works to fortify and uplift the local and regional community. 

“This was a great partnership with many of our community employers and more than 40 nonprofit organizations,” said Laura Potthoff, Business Development Officer for F&M Trust. “Once businesses and their employees do well, then we all benefit as a community.”

A student in the Introduction to Construction program talks with Daniel Zeller of Wagman.

Potthoff described the program as “exploratory in nature,” saying that participants had the opportunity to learn about the various construction trades, discover their individual skill sets, and determine what jobs are the best fit for them.

“We are grateful for the support and sponsorship of F&M Trust throughout the program,” Isbell said. “Laura helped connect the university to employers to ensure the program met their needs and to identify industry experts to deliver sessions throughout the program. She also connected us with nonprofits who work with unemployed or underemployed individuals to assist in recruiting students for the program.”

A student in the Introduction to Construction program talks with Seth Kohr of Keystone Contractors Association and Bruce Wiest of Pyramid Construction Service.

Shippensburg University plans to hold a Discover Careers in Construction Camp this summer for high school students and another Introduction to Construction Program in 2025. 

“Our goal is to continue to support the economic growth of our regional construction industry through programming that can improve the socio-economic mobility of those living and working in South Central Pennsylvania,” Isbell said.

F&M Trust sponsored lunch on the program’s final day featuring guest speaker Claudia Rivera of JEM Group in Camp Hill whose topic was “DEI in the Construction Industry.”

Businesses participating in the program include Buchart Horn Inc., DHM Excavating, JEM Group, John W. Gleim Jr. Excavating, Mowery Construction, Pennsy Supply Inc., Pyramid Construction Service, RETTEW Associates, The Tuckey Companies, Volvo, and Wagman.

A student in the Introduction to Construction program talks with Grant Benedict of DHM Excavating.