Gilbane breaks ground on $200M vocational high school

Gilbane Building Co. broke ground on a new, $200 million vocational school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, adjacent to the aging facility that it will replace, the company announced on July 26. The current campus of Bullard-Havens Technical High School is 71-years old and was first erected in 1950, according to the CT Post.

Hartford, Connecticut-based JCJ Architecture designed the school, which Gilbane will build across a 41-month schedule, per the release. Built on the existing 24-acre site in multiple phases, the project will feature a new classroom/lab space, field house, theory rooms, new athletic fields, gymnasium and fitness center.

The Providence, Rhode Island-based contractor will build the new facility adjacent to the existing school, which will remain fully operational and accessible during the build. Upon completion, the existing school facility will be demolished to allow for development of new driveways, parking areas and landscaped areas.

The new building will serve approximately 900 students in grades 9 through 12 and accommodate 13 separate shop programs. Some of those programs are construction related, including carpentry, masonry, plumbing and heating, architecture and electrical, per the release.

Managed by the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System, Bullard-Havens Technical High School is one of 17 diploma-granting institutions under the system’s umbrella. CTECS was the largest public high school system in the state from 2019-2020, per Connecticut education nonprofit School + State Finance Project. The system serves 11,200 current high school students across 31 career technical education programs, per its website.

But Connecticut’s emphasis on technical schools is the exception that proves the rule in the broader context of vocational training in the U.S.

The emphasis on secondary rather than vocational education in public schools has long vexed construction trade groups, who have called for more technical education programs to help develop the next generation of contractors. In February, an analysis by Associated Builders and Contractors showed the industry needs to hire 546,000 workers to keep up with current demand, in addition to the industry’s normal hiring pace. 

“Career Technical Education (CTE) or technical high schools play a vital role in addressing the construction labor shortage, providing exposure, education, and experiential learning opportunities to students who are interested in the construction field,” said Susan Tully, K-12 market leader for Gilbane Building Co., in an email to Construction Dive. “Part of Gilbane’s mission is to educate students on the multiple career paths that exist in construction as well as how lucrative and varied the work can be,” 

Despite industry-wide labor issues, Gilbane has kept a steady pace of work. Earlier this month, insurance giant Northwestern Mutual tapped Gilbane and CG Schmidt for a $500 million modernization of the North Office Building at its Milwaukee headquarters. The contractor is also working on the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

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