Future Construction Workers Engaged and Prequalified through Games

A suite of games, videos, and assessment tools is helping build awareness and close the skills gap for the growing number of quality careers in highway construction. In partnership with Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP), Ladders of Opportunity, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Simcoach Games has developed the Future Road Builders game. This game addresses a concerning talent gap seen by employers by allowing people to explore the field and develop skills.

Future Road Builders doesn’t just provide games, it also comes with a dashboard that provides an avenue for connecting companies with potential employees. The dashboard provides organizations with data-based insights into who is using the game. Insights include what region players are in, what interests they have, and what aptitudes they have shown. Additionally, organizations can license the ability to send targeted messages to specific audiences based on players’ zip codes.

According to the Simcoach website, the combination of game design techniques with proven learning principles results in a solution that, “requires less time to deliver, increases retention for learners, and measurably improves a defined outcome.”

A pilot project with the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers is demonstrating the power of gamification. The pilot is about three quarters of the way through the 2018 apprenticeship application process, but preliminary numbers are being tabulated.

Chris Seidler, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Simcoach Games points out, “the goals of Future Road Builders were to increase the number of prequalified applicants, female applicants, and minority applicants into Western Pennsylvania apprenticeship opportunities . Initial statistics indicate very promising results in accomplishing those goals.”

The early numbers demonstrate that playing Future Road Builders not only helped draw people into the apprenticeship program, but it also helped better prepare applicants as they moved through the process. While overall, 26% of all applicants had played Future Road Builders, the game did a good job engaging women and minorities to apply. Among the minority applicants who were selected to interview, 40% had played Future Road Builders, and among the women who were selected to interview, 45% had played the game.

Another one of Simcoach’s games has been regionally customized for South Dakota. Build South Dakota: The Game is a virtual pre-apprenticeship experience. In it, the player explores the different phases of a highway construction project and uncovers the skills needed to be a Carpenter, Pile Driver, Concrete Finisher, Skilled Laborer, Heavy Equipment Operator, and Inspector.

For more information, you may also like this interview with Simcoach Games founder, Jessica Trybus, on Venture Beat or visit simcoachgames.com

More Apprenticeship Programs are Being Offered through Programs Sponsored by Community and Technical Colleges

With benefits like an 88% retention rate for apprentices, a built-in source of high-performing students, and an increasing interest among businesses, more and more community and technical colleges are seeing the value in sponsoring registered apprenticeship programs through the US Department of Labor. By being a program sponsor, the college takes on the responsibility of classroom education as well as all the paperwork, ultimately making it easy for employers to hire apprentices. In this model, even small companies, who are hiring just one or two apprentices at a time, can use this proven method to grow their talent pipelines.

When Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, began their program, they were one of just three colleges in the country that were Registered Apprenticeship program sponsors. The growth in sponsorship among community colleges can be seen on the website for the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), which currently lists 23 colleges that are program sponsors.

One state, Georgia, has taken this to the next level by working to approve most of the technical colleges in the state to act as Registered Apprenticeship sponsors through Georgia WorkSmart, a work-based learning initiative operated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Businesses are also increasingly taking advantage of apprenticeship to grow expertise within their workforce.

“We’re finding that, after their first experience, companies want to expand and add apprentices in different industries,” said Dr. Rebecca Lake, Dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Harper College. For example, Lake pointed to one company that had enrolled an apprentice in Harper’s Logistics/Supply Chain Management program and then came back the next year with an apprentice for the Banking/Finance program, because they had a need in that area of their business, as well.

Like apprenticeship programs across the country, Harper is growing their Registered Apprenticeship programs in white collar industries. Their newer programs include Banking/Finance, Sales & Retail Manangement, and Graphic Arts Print Production. A program in Cyber Security is also in the works.

Lake is actively working to develop an apprenticeship program for truck drivers at Harper College. To do this, she is utilizing a curriculum created by another college in Illinois, another benefit to community colleges that join the RACC.

“If you’re part of the network, you can get curricula. You, don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Lake.

Reinvigorating Interest in Transportation Occupations for Engineers Week 2018

This year for Engineers Week, the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center will be thinking about what it takes to build an engineering workforce that will be capable of maintaining the nation’s transportation infrastructure. What skills and knowledge will workers need over the next 5-to-15 years in order to be successful in light of the rapidly advancing technologies and data systems moving into the transportation sector?

Attracting young people to this field begins today and it begins early—in elementary, middle, and high school. Engineers Week is filled with events and activities to engage and inspire people to envision a career filling one of these important roles.

Each state in the MTWC region celebrates engineering in its own way. You can find Engineers Week events as well as other activities designed to inspire and educate young people about their career options in the MTWC Clearinghouse searchable database.

For the Midwest, we’ve compiled a short list of events for each state:


The DuPage Area STEM Expo on Saturday, is a specialized event designed to promote the awareness of professional and educational opportunities provided among engineering and STEM fields. The event features over 50 displays, presentations, projects to take home and activities for school-age children, grades K–12.  https://appliedtech.iit.edu/stemexpo


The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis had engineers from various disciplines stationed near several exhibits throughout the museum during its annual Engineers Day event. Each station will have a hands-on activity and volunteers will be there to talk with visitors, answer any questions about engineering, and hand out materials. http://mtwc.org/event/engineers-day-at-the-childrens-museum-of-indianapolis/

Older students might enjoy the Engineers Week High School Bridge Contest on Saturday held on the campus of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. http://www.etcs.ipfw.edu/EWeekBridgeContest/


Several fun events are scheduled for the college’s students during the Iowa State University Engineers’ Week. The goal is to involve the college in a celebration of engineering that encompasses all students, faculty, staff, and alumni. https://www.engineering.iastate.edu/eweek/


For two days, March 2nd and 3rd, the Kansas University School of Engineering will open its doors to Elementary and Middle School students to explore the world of engineering during its Engineering Expo 2018. Students will have unique opportunities to learn more about science and engineering through demonstrations, hands-on activities, and competitions. This year’s competitions include: Marshmallow Tower, Downhill Car, Rube Goldberg, Egg Drop, Skyscraper, Pasta Bridge, Paper Airplane, Catapult, and Water Rocket. https://engr.ku.edu/esc/expo

March 10th will be the 20th anniversary of the Society of Women Engineers Wichita Section’s 2018 Engineering Expo. The event is designed to show students in grades K–8 how cool engineering can be. This free event features hands-on activities as well as smaller, in-depth workshops for kids in grades 6, 7 and 8. Workshops this year include: Apollo 13 CO2 Filter, Build a Fidget Spinner, Hydraulic Claw, Solar Cars, and Squishy Circuits. https://wichitaswe.org/expo/


This Friday, the American Center for Mobility’s Exploration Day: The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles will offer opportunities to learn from industry experts on the state of industry and technology of self-driving vehicles (and drones), experience demo vehicles, take a tour of the new American Center for Mobility test site, and talk to company representatives about job opportunities. The morning is open to veterans. Students are invited in the afternoon. https://events.engin.umich.edu/events/49459-11462136/


The MPS STEM & Career Exploration Expo, February 21st, is a keystone event for all Minneapolis Public Schools’ 8th grade students to explore STEM-related career interests and learning opportunities in the community. Community partners will provide hands-on, interactive exhibits designed to increase student interest in STEM-related learning and/or career opportunities related to Minnesota’s career fields that keep our economy strong: Business, Management & Administration, Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, Arts, Communications & Information Systems, Engineering, Manufacturing & Technology, Health Sciences, and Human Services. http://stem.mpls.k12.mn.us/mpsstemexpo

Get ready to dive into the world of technology and engineering at Tech Fest on Saturday. The biggest event of the year for The Works Museum. With dozens of hands-on activities led by scientists, engineers, and educators, this special family STEM day is a perfect opportunity to explore together. The event brings together all the areas of STEM with activities and demos designed just for families. With building, making, chemistry, the physics of launching rockets, exploring technology used to save lives and keep us healthy, and more, Tech Fest is a perfect family outing for a wintry day. https://theworks.org/tech-fest/


At Coding is as easy as Raspberry Pi on February 27th, kids will explore the world of coding using these credit card-sized computers and learn the basics of computer languages such as SCRATCH. http://www.mymcpl.org/events/calendar/event/26877


Each year, the Case Engineering Council (CEC) coordinates Case Western Reserve University’s Engineers Week with several events scheduled for Case students. They are able to participate in friendly competition, social events, seminars with excellent speakers, and a reception. https://engineering.case.edu/delpp/eweek


The one-day STEM Exploration Day for Girls on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus will be February 23rd. This event caters to 7th and 8th grade girls to get them fired up and excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The event showcases STEM career professionals from throughout Wisconsin and faculty from the UW system. Students will engage in hands-on workshops and learn the many career paths available with an education in STEM. A $40 registration fee includes exhibit exploration, a keynote presentation, three one-hour workshops, event materials, a t-shirt and a lunch. Students have 27 workshops to choose from. https://www.uwsp.edu/conted/ConfWrkShp/Pages/STEM/Girls.aspx