The Roanoker - July/August 2020 - 16

the gist

Getting Kids
Ready to Build

ABOVE:
Rob Leonard has worked
for over a year on the
Build Smart Institute's
summer enrichment
program.

16

JULY/AUGUST 2020

LIKE SO MANY AMERICANS, Rob Leonard has
had to reconfigure his " best laid plans " to accommodate
the threat of COVID-19. But the technological
component of the Build Smart Institute's educational
program made the adjustment fluid and relatively
simple.
Leonard, the safety and education director at F&S
Building Innovations in Roanoke, has been working for
more than a year to pull off the Institute's first Summer
Enrichment Program, a classroom for kids 11-15 that
teaches construction skills.
The schedule calls for the first three-week session
June 8-26 and the second July 13-31. The virus has
put the schedule on shaky ground for the physical part
of the program, but there's a solid backup plan. The
Institute has a computer component that is 20% of the
program-the " knowledge " portion-that can be taught
remotely, computer to computer.
" They can take the rest of their classes later, " Leonard
emphasizes.
Regardless of how the schedule works out, the
Build Smart Institute is seeking to establish itself as
an educational alternative not only for young kids, but
also for high school students and adults. Construction,
says Leonard, has fallen upon hard times, at least partly
because of its image.
" It is a respectable career where you can make a good
living, " says Leonard.
And he means a good living right out of high school,
where workers often start at between $40,000 and
$70,000 a year.

" I always wanted to be in construction despite the
stigma, " he says.
And he has been involved for 40 years. As safety and
education director at F&S, which wanted to focus on
educating the next generation of workers, he spent a year
designing the program and working on safety education
for construction professionals.
He found " there is a near zero interest in construction
in grades 0 to 7. Technical education is over-burdened
and apprentice programs lack resources and need
companies to hire their graduates. "
Leonard designed the school around a 12,000-squarefoot facility F&S leases in the Gainsboro section of
Roanoke and the summer classes will concentrate on
four units: safety, construction math, construction means
(tools) and employability.
Classes will each have 15 students and, at this
moment, two teachers. Students will go to school eight
hours a day for three weeks and will graduate after their
second three-week session with several construction
education certificates, including the Build Smart
Institute's own.
Classes are being planned for high school students
and for adults who want to become work-ready for the
industry, which is in need of workers top to bottom,
Leonard insists.
Tuition for the classes is $1,050 for the first threeweek session, which runs 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays with
lunch and snacks provided.
Email the Build Smart Institute at info@
buildsmartinstitute.com or call 540-613-2102.
				-DAN SMITH
TheRoanoker.com

DAN SMITH

The Build Smart Institute, scheduled to
open this summer, has a great Plan B,
should viral matters intervene.


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The Roanoker - July/August 2020

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