Academy in Fishers prepares students for commercial construction trades


A hands-on academy in Fishers is helping prepare local high school students for careers in the commercial construction trades with a focus on carpentry, electrical and plumbing.

The two-year program at the ABC Commercial Construction Prep Academy works to place students with local companies and allows them to earn industry-recognized certifications, said Robert Kneberg, director of the academy.

“Currently, there is a 650,000 commercial construction worker shortage nationwide, and the ABC Prep Academy has a year-over-year, 100 percent student placement rate, with a start date in writing before the school year ends for any student who wants and is available for a paid summer internship or full-time employment with a local contractor,” Kneberg said.

The prep academy, at 11837 Technology Lane in Fishers, was formerly at the Ivy Tech Community College Hamilton County campus, but moved to its current location in 2019 because of significant growth in student enrollment. Since that time, the academy has continued, and Kneberg said he projects to reach maximum student enrollment based on the capacity of its current facility.

There are five ABC Prep Academies in Indiana, with locations in Carroll County, Fishers, Ft. Wayne, Marion and New Albany. An additional location is planned to start in Lebanon this year.

Second-year students are dual enrolled in the first year of an adult apprenticeship in either the carpentry, electrical, or plumbing trades with aligned internship opportunities. Kneberg said they can earn additional certificates, such as an NCCER Level 1, meaning that students can complete the first year of their typically four-year department of labor registered adult apprenticeship while still in high school.

“The commercial construction trades provide people the opportunity to earn a good living with benefits and job security in an industry that cannot be outsourced and is resistant to economic downturns,” Kneberg said. “Our program serves as a starting point with aligned employment and postsecondary training opportunities.”

Kneberg said the program is hands-on and allows students to determine whether construction is right for them, and which trade or trades might be good for them to pursue.

“Our goal is solely focused on putting students into a career,” Kneberg said. “During the summer, they have the opportunity to go to a paid internship.”

Kneberg also noted that students who enter the commercial construction trades as a career can have a very strong quality of life with a high-earning wage anywhere in the U.S. Students who participate in the program can expect to be at the prep academy three hours a day for five days a week.

“It’s college without debt,” he said.

Kneberg said every skill that students learn builds on another skill with a particular focus on teaching skills that are relevant, cutting-edge and used in the field.

“We treat our program like a job site, and that’s where your employability comes in,” he said. “So, that’s showing up on time, teamwork, willingness to learn, attention to detail, safety, etc., and we treat it like a job site and we explain that to the parents and students, and our objective is a career.”

Sarah Snell, a senior at Noblesville High School, is among the students participating in the program and got involved because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career. She said her involvement in the program has been overwhelmingly positive and is leaning toward a potential career in commercial carpentry.

“I don’t want to be stuck in a job that I don’t enjoy, and this definitely seems like something I’m going to enjoy for a while,” Snell said.

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