Solano Benitez said his father, Jorge Benitez, who was part of multiple generations of electricians, was his main inspiration for entering the construction field as he was growing up in New York.
“It was a bit inspiring, living in New York, going into the city sometimes, seeing all the skyscrapers and all the construction being done,” he said.
While attending Riverview High School in Sarasota, he was presented with the opportunity to join the construction technology program it established at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, and eagerly did so.
A partnership that included companies such as Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, Jon F. Swift Construction, Neal Communities and Halfacre Construction, the program offers hands-on experience in the construction and trades industry alongside the National Center for Construction Education & Research curriculum.
According to Sarasota County Schools, over 60 students signed up within days of enrollment, while a waiting list of more than 60 students formed.
Upon completing the program, students graduate with industry-recognized skills and access to opportunities that include local internships and jobs.
Among the first graduates of the program are Benitez and another Riverview student, Tyler Moses, both of whom have been hired as assistant superintendents, in internship roles, by the Lakewood Ranch-based Halfacre Construction Company.
Moses said he had been interested in the field due to the fact that his grandmother, Ethel Brown, is an extremely “hands-on person” who made many repairs around the house.
After passing the basics of the program, he was learning about many facets of construction, including different types of tools. One of the most interesting parts of the program was building a shed in his classroom, he said.
“We went on field trips that were really cool,” said Moses. “We started to learn how wide the construction community was — how there was a lot more than just being a construction worker.”
Moses said the knowledge he gained about different positions helps with his internship responsibilities, which includes ensuring that workers perform their jobs safely, efficiently and on schedule.
“It just gives people another pathway that, especially now, a lot of people look down upon, that a lot of people don’t highlight as a way of having a career without going into higher education,” he said.
“I put all my faith into it and jumped into it, and I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of information I can learn, and how much I just love the trade in general, and how non-binding it was — just how there was a plethora of options you can go into from welding, to being a foreman, to doing what I do."