For 20 years, the ACE Mentor Program has been introducing and motivating high school students to careers in architecture, engineering and construction. The program began in 1994 as the ACE Mentor Program of New York City with 17 mentoring firms forming three teams to teach 90 students about the AEC industry. The national not-for-profit ACE Mentor Program was formed in 2002 in the District of Columbia. Since then, the program has grown to over 75 local affiliates in 37 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The mission of the year-long after-school program is “to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry.” Participants in the program are split into teams of 15 to 25 students to emulate an actual design team. Mentors from architecture, engineering and construction firms help guide the teams through a mock design project that begins with creating a company name and logo and works through the various stages of designing a project like creating scale drawings, developing a construction schedule and finishing with a computer-aided design construction documents. At the end of each year the teams present their final projects at a scholarship banquet and presentation event.
In addition to the design project, teams will participate in hands-on activities where students will learn skills like computer-aided design, cost estimating and engineering principles. Teams will also visit the offices of their mentors and tour construction sites. Many affiliates also host a “College Night” where students learn about AEC industry programs at local area colleges. Students are exposed to a number of disciplines throughout the course of the program such as construction management, structural engineering, architecture, MEP engineering and planning.
Along with gaining valuable life and work skills, ACE Mentor Program students have a higher high school graduation rate and higher college enrollment rate than the national average. Female participants enter college engineering programs at double the national rate. Around 75 percent of participants in the program go on to pursue careers in architecture, construction and engineering.
Aside from giving back to the community, mentors help encourage the next generation of construction industry professionals. Students often end up in internships at mentor firms as they pursue their degrees and often find employment with them after college.
To date, more than 60,000 students have participated in the ACE Mentor Program since its inception. It is the construction industry’s fastest-growing mentoring program for high school students with over 8,000 students participating each year. The program was awarded the 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring and the American Institute of Architects’ 2014 Collaborative Achievement Award. Since its founding in 1994, the ACE Mentor Program has also awarded more than $14 million in scholarships for students to pursue degrees in the AEC industry.