Attracting the Next Generation of A/E/C Superstars

 ACE Los Angeles mentor and students

ACE Los Angeles mentor and students


This is the 13th in a series of posts featuring insights from professionals who work in the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry.


How will architecture, engineering and construction firms fill the jobs of tomorrow? That question has lingered for years as the industry contemplates new ways to attract young workers to its ranks.

The solution might be more obvious than it appears. Instead of waiting for future talent to come to A/E/C, why not approach and educate students long before they enter the workforce?

That’s the mission of the ACE Mentor Program of America, a not-for-profit organization with a presence in more than 200 cities across America. Each year, ACE (an acronym for “Architecture, Construction and Engineering”) reaches more than 9,000 students from 1,000 high schools.

“We try to go into inner city schools,” says Diana Eidenshink, president of the organization. The program was designed to excite high school students about the many career opportunities within the integrated design and construction industry. “Right now we’re probably about 70% minority, 40% women. What we’re really trying to do is go into the high schools that are very diverse, so we’ve been very successful in lots of inner city schools.”

 ACE Austin mentor and students

ACE Austin mentor and students

The free program educates students through hands-on workshops with industry mentors and field trips to construction sites. Each student team is set up to emulate an actual design team, with students guided through a mock design project by their architect, engineer and construction management mentors. The program, which runs for the duration of the school year, includes 15 to 20 after-school sessions. 

Technology is a major component of the curriculum, and ACE’s national sponsors include several prominent technology companies: Oracle, Autodesk, Bentley Systems and CMiC. “We try to do as much as we can in teaching the kids all of our technology,” says Eidenshink. “It’s absolutely a discussion in all of our groups that this is an ever-changing field, especially in the world of technology. Drones have become big in the industry and kids are very fascinated by that.”

The results speak for themselves. In a 2016 survey of ACE participants, 72 percent  said the program made their high school studies more meaningful, while 65 percent said they were motivated to study more because of ACE.

 Mentor and students from ACE of Eastern Pennsylvania

Mentor and students from ACE of Eastern Pennsylvania

Women in Demand

Eidenshink says that while A/E/C can be a tough industry—particularly for women—it can provide an extremely rewarding career.

“I get a phone call once a month asking if I know a great engineer who’s a woman,” says Eidenshink. “As a woman you can almost write your own ticket. There are requirements for public jobs to include minority and women participation.”

 Los Angeles chapter's 2014 Trades Day 

Los Angeles chapter's 2014 Trades Day 

She says that A/E/C firms are stepping up their efforts to attract more women and minorities to the field.

“There’s a lot of internal support now for women within firms,” she says. “There are internal mentoring programs, so there is great support now for women to come into the industry.”

The ACE organization is also doing its part to ensure young women feel welcome.

“We’re making sure we have women mentors who show the students that there are women in this industry and it’s a field they could do very well in,” says Eidenshink.