By Martie Thompson
Determined to help solve what he calls a “workforce problem” in the engineering industry, Drew Kenyon, along with Creekside High School teacher Kevin Davenport and Dylan Scanlon, came up with the idea to train high school students to use the computer drafting program AutoDesk Civil 3D and to learn more about the civil engineering industry. Kenyon, a Creekside High School graduate who went on to earn a bachelor’s in civil engineering at the University of Florida, said that a big part of what he does in his professional engineering job is construction drawings using AutoCAD.
“I felt high schoolers could learn to do some of this work,” he said. “This helps engineers have time for higher level tasks and the added benefit for the student is that being a certified CAD technician can be a good career.”
Listening to a podcast about a similar initiative that had been structured as a foundation in Mississippi gave Kenyon the idea to replicate the non profit set up locally — and the Florida Civil Educators Foundation was born in 2022. The foundation’s mission is to provide hands-on training, mentorship and internships to high school civil engineering and construction students.
“We are trying to be a part of the solution by taking an interesting approach to this workforce problem,” Kenyon said.
Presently, Kenyon and Scanlon join Davenport, who is a professional engineer and their former teacher at the Creekside Engineering Academy, one morning a week before school starts to train academy students on basic AutoCad that can be applied to any business.
“We want to be in all schools,” Scanlon, also a Creekside High School graduate, said. “Anywhere we can reach out to the local community so that local engineering firms can have a pipeline of potential students to work and intern.”
Kenyon and Scanlon said that Pedro Menendez High School is currently upgrading its computers to accommodate the required software and that they will begin delivering their curriculum at that school in addition to Creekside in the fall.
Kenyon said that their plan is not just to teach concepts, but also provide real world working opportunities.
“This training isn’t just in a vacuum,” he said. “The best scenario is to get students placed in engineering firms, so we advocate for paid internships as well.”
Davenport recognizes the contribution of his former students to his profession.
“These young professionals in our community are giving back to the St. Johns County schools that educated them,” he said. “They are trying to help the students as well as their engineering companies.”
Davenport said there is a big need in the engineering industry for people to work — and not just as engineers.
“From a teacher’s perspective, it’s important when students leave high school that they have a skill,” Davenport said. “Not everyone goes to college; it’s just not for everyone. To have this hands-on vocational skill has been missing from school systems for the last several years.”
Davenport said he wants to bring the industry into the classroom and to that end, he welcomes representatives from various local engineering firms to make presentations regarding their firms to his students.
The Florida Civil Educators Foundation is actively seeking individuals and engineering firms with a desire to support the next generation’s workforce. Visit www.fcefinc.com or email Andrew.Kenyon@fcefinc.com for more information.
Photo courtesy Kevin Davenport
35 Creekside Engineering Academy juniors meet with volunteer mentors one day a week before school.