Back

Autodesk Launches Microgrants and Scholarship Award to Support Students Entering Construction Trades

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, there will be up to 200 million construction jobs worldwide by 2030. This surge in new jobs comes at a time when our customers are voicing concerns about both a retiring workforce and a lack of younger workers entering their industries. To help address this challenge, Autodesk is finding ways to encourage the next generation to pursue careers in skilled trades.

Last month marked the fifth year of our “Make It Real” program—an initiative that cultivates student interest and builds workforce adaptability, particularly for those entering the construction trades. What inspires me most about supporting this program since 2018, is how it has evolved over the years in direct response to feedback from educators about how we can work together to address the opportunity gaps that their students are facing – from providing makerspace equipment to schools to facilitating engaging career-based distance learning during the first year of the pandemic.

Former New England Patriots star James Develin joined a recent “Teaching with Tinkercad” session, offering perspective on how to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset in students.

In preparation for this year and to further refine the program, we conducted research about young people getting started in their trade careers to understand their greatest needs for support. We found that one of the biggest barriers to pursuing their career was often not just the cost of tuition, but the everyday expenses associated with job training, like tools, work clothes and boots, and transportation.

We decided to do something about it.

Rather than trying to fund a specific solution through a rigid grant, why not give these young people flexible funding that allows them to address the needs that only they can identify?

Today Autodesk is announcing $50,000 worth of microgrants* so that the recipients can decide for themselves how to apply the funds where they are needed most. The $500 award may be used to cover expenses to support training, ranging from tuition and certification fees to safety equipment and childcare.

The microgrants are open to graduating high school seniors who are continuing their education in the building trades through apprenticeship programs or two-year vocational schools.

Paul Blandini, Vice President, Business Strategy & Operations, Autodesk Construction Solutions, told me a bit more about his vision for this program. He shared, “at a time when students are trying to upskill and prepare for a new career in the trades, and construction firms are desperate to find new skilled labor, we hope to alleviate some of the financial roadblocks that arise at the beginning.”

Tradeswomen shed light on the hidden costs of pursuing a trade education 

We’ve heard from existing trade workers that getting started in construction means overcoming financial barriers, like paying for childcare and transportation.

I recently caught up with a couple of skilled trade workers to learn more about some of the challenges students face when entering a construction trade career.

Savy Francis, a pipefitter and member of Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity, shared examples of some of these hidden costs from her personal experience. She noted, “transportation could be an issue if you don’t have a car and work could start as early as 5 a.m. Childcare is another tough one. Most daycares do not open until 7 a.m.”

Everyday expenses like these are unavoidable while pursuing a career in the trades, especially if you have a family to support. Often, tuition expenses for educational programs are covered by unions or other funding sources for workers in-training, but the tools they need must be purchased from money out of their own pockets.

“It is the responsibility of the soon-to-become carpenter to have all the tools necessary to start a job. This can cost anywhere from $100 and above depending on where they purchase their tools,” says Marilyn Rosa, carpenter and member of Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity. She continued, “[workers] will have to purchase steel toe boots, jeans, safety color shirts, a hard hat, gloves, safety glasses to get started.”

Additional support through a Circular Design Contest  

Students can get started for the “Make It Modular” design challenge by downloading a Tinkercad model Autodesk created out of shipping containers.

In addition to the microgrants, this year’s Make It Real program also includes a circular design contest, “Make It Modular,” in partnership with former New England Patriots star James Develin. Open to students ages 13-21 who are currently enrolled in high school or homeschooled in the US, winners have an opportunity to win scholarship funds totaling $50,000, which can be used to support the winner’s education and cover other related needs.

Now in the third year of our collaboration, James has been a perfect teammate for this initiative. His love for design and building began as a young person, studying CAD in high school, graduating from Brown University’s mechanical engineering program, and working as a laborer while in college.

“Engineering and design are fields that I was drawn to because they allowed me to express my imagination and artistic capacity,” James recently told me. “I hope that with this partnership, we can shed light on the fact that there are no small jobs in a building project, and that anyone should be able to see themselves in the future of construction.”

 Watch the “Make It Modular” series with host James Develin as he meets the skilled tradespeople who help make his entrepreneurial dreams a reality. 

Between the microgrants and scholarship awards, Autodesk is offering a total of $100,000 in funding that can be used to support education-related expenses through our Make It Real program. Through this approach, we hope that we can provide holistic funding that helps empower students to become the builders that shape our world.

*The microgrants will be provided through the Building Changemakers Giveaway.

Head here for more on the Make it Modular challenge and our collaboration with James Develin.