One of the fieldtrips at last summer’s inaugural construction camp for girls was to the construction site of the Kum & Go corporate headquarters.
Thursday, this year’s cohort of campers returned to tour the (practically) finished product, a hardhat zone no more. The Krause Gateway Center is open for business, a downtown crown jewel designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, whose recent notable commissions include the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. A project erected on a site where people used to buy $5 sandwiches ended up as a $150 million state-of-the-art addition to downtown Des Moines that is both stylish and smart.
Thirty-two students signed up for this summer’s encore presentation of a weeklong exposure to skilled trades where women are under-represented and worker shortages are a growing problem, both locally and nationally.
Camaryn Butts is one of six returnees from last summer’s camp. She signed up a year ago after taking a class as a freshman in 3D architectural design that piqued her interest in how buildings are built. As a junior-to-be at Hoover High, she took advantage of the chance to do the camp again.
“Last year we just walked over (from nearby Central Campus) and mostly stood across the street to look at this place still under construction,” she said Thursday morning while standing on the “green roof,” a reflective space planted with native Iowa prairie grasses and wildflowers that affords panoramic views of the city.
Jeanette Thomas is an Education Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges & Workforce Preparation. Her focus is recruiting women into nontraditional career fields and she is the camp director.
“We have a full agenda again this year and all of our sponsors are back, too,” she said. “Students will visit trades apprenticeship programs, hear panel discussions led by women in the construction trades, learn tips about job interviewing and get to do hand-on exercises on some of the site visits.”
Besides Thursday’s fieldtrip, others are to building trades like masonry, carpentry and plumbing. Some students have their eyes on careers in those fields. Others, like Butts, have different plans.
“I’m interested in architecture,” she said while winding her way through a workplace with a new car vibe to it, one that’s inspiring to the employees who report for duty there day in/day out and visitors on guided tours alike. Butts couldn’t have come to a better place.
For an up-close inside look at a world-class edifice designed by the greatest Italian architect since DaVinci – or to finish high school.