Kapolei High students give back during fall break and gain valuable building industry experience


Under mentoring by industry professionals, Kapolei High students built a brand-new stage for Makakilo Elementary’s cafeteria.

KAPOLEI — Kapolei High School partnered with the General Contractors Association (GCA) of Hawaii and nonprofit Hawaii 3R’s to provide real-world construction industry training for students over the fall break. 

During the break, 30 Kapolei High students were mentored by industry professionals as part of GCA’s “Introducing Students to a Career in Construction” initiative. The students completed a project from start to finish, demolishing a 50-year-old platform stage and building a new concrete stage for Makakilo Elementary School’s cafeteria for assemblies and family engagement activities.

“This is the second time we have been able to offer this type of hands-on opportunity through the generous support of the General Contractors Association. Earlier this year, our students were able to give back to our school by refurbishing benches and installing over 100 white boards in our classrooms,” said Kapolei High Principal Wesley Shinkawa. 

“I’m proud of our students for looking beyond our campus for this project to give back to their community, which is why Makakilo Elementary was selected," he said. "It’s innovative partnerships like this that help us ensure our students are college-, career- and community-ready by the time they graduate.”

In addition to the stage project, students were trained on how to install additional sprinkler systems and refurbish school boards. Participants also went through comprehensive course work that will culminate with students having the opportunity to receive an industry-valued certification – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10. The cost for this training is being sponsored by GCA and its member organizations.  

“We are excited to work with these motivated students and provide experience and training that they can apply to future career opportunities. We encourage other industries to partner with the state’s largest producer of talent – the Hawaii Department of Education. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that Hawaii’s children have the resources needed to become our state’s future leaders,” said GCA President Layne T. Machida.

Kapolei High was selected as a pilot school for the GCA program, which offers students a full experience in building industry trades. The program also focuses on the development of soft skills such as communication, team work and attention to detail. GCA plans to engage other schools interested in introducing students to a career in construction

To be eligible, students had to apply and interview for one of the coveted spots. During the program, students work on projects from inception to completion including surveying and planning, and hands-on construction skills such as estimating, layout, painting, concrete placement, irrigation piping and carpentry.

"It's such a good opportunity," Kapolei High senior Kawika Frederick said. "In order to get into this (program), we have to sign up, then you have to go into an interview, and then you have to be hand-picked."

Kawika's advice to other students: "Always just try your best, give it your best, try new things."

Due to the success of last year’s spring hands-on program, the GCA this year added a fall program and will be offering several one-day mini programs to engage students’ interest in a career in construction and expose them to various career paths. Plans include construction jobsite visits, job shadowing, craft interaction and introduction to engineering/architectural careers.


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