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Career Prep Program Educates Area Students to Adapt to an Evolving Workforce

Building Futures: Design and Build Workshops, 2019 RAC Program Support Grant Recipient

Through a series of workshops focused on design and build skills, Building Futures offers hands-on experiences to better prepare a new generation of workers

Young man uses power tools

Students are encouraged to use a variety of tools to bring their projects to life at Building Futures.

In its eighth year of operation, the 21st century workforce prep program, “Building Futures: Design and Build Workshops,” is in full swing for the 2019 school year in St. Louis. Offering area K-12 students a chance to participate in STEAM-centric learning opportunities, Building Futures, with the support of the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis (RAC), is introducing St. Louis youth to skills that can build career opportunities during some of their most formative years.

As technology continues to change workforce demand, students can benefit greatly from training in a variety of new fields that will support the changing job landscape. By investing in students early, Building Futures hopes to teach valuable skills that give young people the competence needed to work in a wide range of highly specialized jobs soon.

Last year, Building Futures provided programming for nearly 1,000 students; and in 2019, the organization looks to educate 1,500 students in the St. Louis region. Students are taught a variety of subjects through hands-on training focusing on design and build skill, communication teamwork, mathematics, reading comprehension, and problem-solving. Projects vary and include learning how to design and then create spice racks, clocks, storage units, and more, all while following a test-and-learn approach that promotes creating models, revising and then building full-scale projects from the ground up.

Two young girls use markers on wood

Students employ a test-and-learn approach, building models of their projects before developing a full-scale version.

“We are extremely committed to aiding the underserved, and it’s incredible to see folks of all ages come from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area to be a part of our programs,” said Building Futures Founder and Co-director Frank Lorberbaum. “Our programs have something unique for everyone.”

Building Futures has received a Program Support grant from RAC each year since it opened its doors in the summer of 2012. The funding has helped the organization offer its Saturday workshops, which include organized field trips and excursions for youth to get hands-on experience, free-of-charge to the community.

A group of proud students stand in front of a brick building

A group of students shows off their creative projects in front of Building Futures’ Downtown St. Louis location.

In addition, Building Futures has used funding from RAC and other partners to advance and expand their program offerings throughout the community. What started in a workshop space donated by a charter school has grown to their own 5,100 sq. ft. workshop in Old North St. Louis, and the organization also has advanced its technological offerings, including a 3D printer that is used to create models, among other supplies that make daily operations more streamlined. The organization’s afterschool programming has expanded as well, with workshops offered directly at schools, serving as a substitute for art programs that have been cut due to lack of funding. At the start of classes this fall 2019, the organization is in 10 different schools, in five different districts throughout the St. Louis area.

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