Press Release: 02.12.2018

Non-traditional career path helped bring Jose Bojorquez to McCarthy

Jose Bojorquez

The seeds of a future career in the construction industry were planted early for Jose Bojorquez.

Growing up in the family residential construction business, Bojorquez recalled long days helping his father throughout the San Diego area. It was hot and the hours were long, but the young boy developed the “can-do attitude” he said guides him to this day.

“I started working with my father at an early age, as early as 12, going out on the jobsite, sweeping, and doing odd and ends work while we were doing an extension,” said Bojorquez, now a Senior Project Engineer with McCarthy’s Southern California Division near San Diego, “I got to work with him while we were building an entire house, from the footings all the way to the roof. I continued to work with him in field through high school during summer break, and into college during the school breaks.”

“I know what it’s like to be out in the field for 12 hours working with a hammer and shovel.  It gives me a sense of respect for what our craft force does since I had a taste of that experience early on.”

Recent studies have shown that a traditional high school and college education doesn’t always translate into workforce ready students. That’s where programs like Linked Learning, the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentor program and similar organizations have filled an important gap.

As a first-generation college graduate from San Diego State, Bojorquez was part of a delegation traveling to Washington D.C. from California last year sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education. The Alliance is a staunch advocate of encouraging and raising awareness for federal and national policies supporting high school reform and increased student achievement.

jose bojorquez

The group, which included West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and JP Morgan Chase & Co. Vice President Sarah Steinberg, met with representatives of President Donald Trump’s administration as well as the Department of Labor and Department of Education.

The group also had an opportunity to speak to the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus. Among the CTE’s top priorities is helping bridge the gap between strong academics for college and readiness for the workforce.

“Our purpose was to inform and educate on what we’re doing in California with Linked Learning schools and the benefits that this concept has for students,” said Bojorquez, a shining example of the program’s value. “I was able to share my high school experience and what I’ve learned – and that’s important now that I work in the field.”

Because of his unique experience of attending a career-based high school and working in the field at such a young age, Bojorquez appreciates the college education that kept him in the construction industry. Not only did he remain in construction, he also earned a managerial role.

jose bojorquez

Linked Learning uses a different approach to education that focuses students on blending college standards with quality technical career education. It is one of the key aspects of the “CTE Excellence and Quality Act” bill introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)  in June 2017.

The legislation would help rework existing education legislation by strongly supporting different high school education experiences to help students become better prepared to enter the 21st century workforce.

If passed, the bipartisan bill would create federal funding for advanced partnerships between school districts, colleges and universities and businesses in Virginia and other states with active CTE programs.

The group Bojorquez spoke with focuses on policy advocacy for education reform. He was referred to the group by his high school principal, who felt her former student was a perfect example of what programs like Linked Learning can accomplish.

“It was eye-opening because it showed me that I could be part of a group of that caliber and go and make an impact in Washington as a kid from a low-income neighborhood out in San Diego,” Bojorquez said. “Our group was very positive and very focused.”

Non-traditional Path

Bojorquez learned about his own potential in the industry from internships and information about college scholarship programs he received in high school. Linked Learning, ACE Mentor program and other organizations made a difference for him.

He participated in the ACE Mentor program as a junior in high school seeking more information on a career in the construction industry. His interaction with ACE mentors helped light a fire of learning and motivation.

His high school - the Kearny High Stanley Foster School of Engineering, Innovation & Design in San Diego - was part of the Linked Learning Alliance. 

“Linked Learning is huge here in California right now and it continues to increase in popularity,” he said.

Students receive strong academic course work to prepare them for college admission. Also included are technical education, work-based learning and professional skills and a strong support system focused on the needs of individual students.

“Students that graduate high school don’t normally know about construction management,” Bojorquez said. “I didn’t know about it until I went through this program. Then I realized ‘Oh wait, I don’t have to be an architect or a civil engineer, I could be in construction management.’

“A lot of my partners that are here started as civil engineers or architects and then realized that a career in construction management was available. That speaks to the importance of having these programs at the high school level and educating students as to what’s available for them.

“There’s a full equity for all the students to have an opportunity, not just the college-bound students.”

Construction Labor Shortage

The program’s importance grows daily because of the continued construction labor shortage in the U.S.  said the industry lost 2.3 million jobs – nearly 40 percent of the workforce -- during recession-like times from 2006 to 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report also cited the lack of vocational educational programs through a decline in secondary education funding and the industry’s reluctance to train new young workers. Many workers who lost their jobs during the economic downturn failed to return to the industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) there were 225,000 vacant construction labor jobs as recently as July 2016.

Bojorquez said because of the labor shortage, there’s an obvious need for programs like the one he experienced in high school. For him, the strong mentors he had and how being exposed to non-traditional coursework made a difference.

The curriculum and the guidance he received helped him not only in the classroom and engineering field, but also with professional skills such as public speaking, resume building and preparation for college.

“I was able to take the construction classes that are relevant right now to what we’re doing, along with software and construction workshop classes,” he said. “We also had exposure to different industry professionals that came to our school to mentor us.”

One of those mentors was Kenneth Walsh, an engineer and chairman of the San Diego State Construction Engineering Department. Bojorquez said Walsh helped him apply and eventually obtain the Associated General Contractors Foundation for Success scholarship in college.

He also received financial aid through scholarships with ACE and paid internships with McCarthy and other companies.

It was an extremely proud moment in 2014 when he became the first college graduate in his family, earning a degree in construction engineering.

The important lessons he had learned from his father were paying off again.

“I think it’s the can-do attitude, that you could do anything. Just being able to do whatever you want to as long as you put your mind to it,” he said. “Whenever we were working at a project, like we do here (at McCarthy), you always encounter issues. Once you get to that point, it’s understanding that there’s going to be a solution that you’ll find and get past that problem.

“That’s one thing I learned from working with my dad all those years.”

Giving Back through McCarthy

Bojorquez remained active in ACE as a student mentor while attending San Diego State and is currently a professional mentor for ACE in his job with McCarthy.

It’s also why he has become such a vocal advocate of technical career educational programs.

He explained, “We need to be able to inform students about opportunities that are available to them in the construction industry in general. Not all students are going to go to college, not all students want to go to college.

“This is showing them opportunities they have in the construction field, where they can make a good living.”

While an intern with McCarthy, Bojorquez did a lot of self-perform work. Two of his earliest projects involved parking structures.

“That really showed me and kind of closed that loop of the importance of not only office work and management, but also the field (work),” he said. “Especially the importance to McCarthy that we self-perform.”

Why He Chose McCarthy

While Bojorquez had other options, he chose to seek full-time employment at McCarthy.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the people,” he said. “Because of the employee-owned aspect, everybody at McCarthy is willing to help you and mentor you so that you can move to the next level. They’re just good people to be around; some of my best friends are in McCarthy.”

A Focus on the Future

Involvement through Linked Learning and the ACE Mentor program are just two ways youngsters are learning about the variety of construction career options available in both craft and management positions. From McCarthy’s involvement with Skills USA, to local construction career days, McCarthy is actively working to promote the exciting opportunities available in the construction industry.

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