‘Many ex-ACE students are working in Middle Tennessee’

Jack Tipton is the Nashville-based regional director of nonprofit ACE Mentor Program of America, which provides support for high school students seeking careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

The Post recently met with Tipton for a brief chat. 

Describe the ACE Mentor Program.

The ACE (architecture, construction, engineering) Mentor Program is a national after-school program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in the design and construction industry. The program runs for 16-18 sessions during the school year with teams of students meeting with teams of professionals exploring the industry and designing a project. These collaborations include office visits and visits to construction sites, as well as hands-on opportunities at trade contractor locations. A banquet is held at the conclusion of the ACE year where students display their designs to an audience of professionals, parents, teachers and mentors. Scholarships are awarded to selected students at this event. The end goal of ACE is to inspire and assist young people in making a more informed decision about career choices.

What are the types of activities the students are exposed to in the summer camp and what role do they play in influencing a student’s career decisions?

At the ACE camp, students attend sessions related to each of the three disciplines:

•    Architecture: They designed and built a model of student housing made of shipping containers;

•    Construction: They created a concrete mix design casting and tested its strength to failure; they also went through a mock bid process activity and learned conflict resolution by negotiating a settlement between an owner, general contractor and sub-contractor; and

•    Engineering: They designed and built a bridge, also testing its strength to failure.

These activities are important as they represent real-life endeavors they will experience in college and on the job. These experiences should serve to deepen their understanding of ACE careers.

How successful has the program been in replenishing the ranks of the design and construction industry here in Middle Tennessee?

There are many former ACE students working and mentoring here in Middle Tennessee. The ones that we are aware of are mentoring on our teams in Nashville, as well as are working professionals. Currently, there are 10 former ACE students serving as ACE mentors and working as professionals in our city.


What were some of the summer camp’s highlights?

There were a variety of sessions on the MTSU campus and in Murfreesboro including making and testing the strength of concrete, making ductwork and building a small cabin. We also toured the building site of the new Tennessee State Museum and the new Justice Center in Murfreesboro. And we built and tested the strength of wooden trusses in Nashville.  


Are there other key activities that ACE Mentor does during the year? And how would students get involved in them?

The mentors work with the students throughout the school year, usually meeting every other week to guide them with work on their project. The mentors also take the student on tours of construction sites and to professional offices of architects, engineers and constructors.  

As to how to get involved, students should join the ACE team at one of the schools where we have the program:  Martin Luther King Magnet, Glencliff High School, Stratford High School, Overton High School, Battleground Academy, Brentwood High School, Centennial High School, Franklin High School, Independence High School, Summit High School, Page High School, Fairview High School, Ravenwood High School, Montgomery Bell Academy, Father Ryan High School and Central Magnet in Murfreesboro . 

There are no requirements except regular attendance and participation.


We see all the cranes in Nashville, so what is the state of the construction workforce here in Middle Tennessee? 

The talent pool in the construction and design market is severely limited in the Nashville region, and a number of employers have struggled to find entry- and mid-level talent in the ACE areas. The need for the ACE Mentor Program has never been greater as the boomers leave the workforce and are replaced by a smaller cohort in the Gen X segment. Gen Y, the millennials, will be a key ingredient in the future of these industries.

Where in the industry is there the greatest need for skills that ACE addresses?

In addition to replacing an aging workforce throughout the design construction industry, the civil infrastructure area, building power (electrical); mechanical systems and the architecture area are in dire need of skills that we support and encourage in the ACE program.

Why has green/sustainable building grown to such importance in the last few years?

In 2015, the US Green Building Council commissioned a green building economic impact study that confirmed green building is outpacing conventional methods of construction. The data showed that green construction accounted for over 2.3 million American jobs in 2015 and is predicted to grow to more than 3.3 million jobs and have a $303.5 billion impact on U.S. GDP by 2018.  Simply put, the reason is the “Triple Bottom Line” of sustainability:  economics, environment and equity, also known as people/planet/profit.

Whether a home or a commercial building, sustainable design considers how every component works together as a holistic system to maximize efficiencies, improve performance and lower long-term expenses. Additionally, green building addresses health. The average American spends 90 percent of their lives indoors; a sustainable built-environment with daylight, good indoor air and water quality, and access to healthy foods directly correlates to increased occupant well being, mental acuity and productivity. This, in turn, manages costs and improves returns for employers whose largest expense is their staff. Green building also supports the local economy through locally sourced products and materials, encourages innovative, performance-based design solutions and values the life-cycle analysis of building components.

Lastly, green building is not just for new construction. Homeowners and businesses alike can save money through sustainable measures like retrofits, operations and maintenance. Sustainable buildings such as those certified through third-party rating systems like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design consider all of these aspects and prove their ability to make buildings more efficient, healthy and resilient.

This is why the ACE Mentor Program is focused on helping the design and construction leaders of tomorrow better understand the advantages and details of green/sustainable construction.

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