Adapting Mentorship Programs During the Pandemic

James J. Porter, P.E., LEED AP BD+C

While social distancing and work from home scenarios have created numerous challenges for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have found that one the biggest we have faced at HAWA during this time is continuing our company mentorship initiatives. This “new normal” has forced us to think outside the box and find new ways to continue employee training and collaboration as well as maintain company culture in a remote setting. As someone who thrives on personal interaction, this was, and continues to be, a challenge.

Although we would all like to get back to our “pre-pandemic” lives, unfortunately that will not be the case for some time and we must continue our mentoring efforts of the next generation.

For the last 10 years, I have had the fortune to be involved with the ACE (Architecture/Construction/Engineering) Mentor Program in Columbus. The program’s mission is to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in the AEC industry through mentoring and support their continued advancement in the industry. As mentors, we go into schools and hold in-person sessions where we guide students through mock design projects. Students also visit actual job sites to get a good feel for what we do.

The students thrived most when lectures were short and activities were hands-on. However, this pandemic has flipped our model upside down. Just like in our work life, we have had to reinvent our model to a virtual format, while trying to maintain the same interest level. The Columbus ACE Board has been hard at work, coordinating with schools to make sure we can do just that. This year’s session will go on as planned, however in a shorter, virtual format. We plan to start in November and will once again be partnering with Northland High School.

We could use more mentors to help with the planning. If you are interested, please contact me at or follow us on LinkedIn. Thank you in advance for helping us make a difference.

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