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Venture General Contracting

ACE Mentor Program 2020-2021

Posted by Venture General Contracting on Feb 23

ACE Mentor Program

Highlighting Venture's Kevin Smith, Ed Almonte, and Ian Heusser!

The ACE Mentor Program is an organization that allows students to gain firsthand experience in the architecture, engineering, and construction professions. Local high school students are grouped into project teams with professional volunteers from each discipline, where they work together to ‘build’ a real-life project.

This year, Venture’s Sr. Project Manager Kevin Smith, Project Manager Ed Almonte, and Assistant Superintendent Ian Heusser are participating as ACE mentors. They are currently grouped with another Project Manager and 5 students, representing the ‘construction team’ for a new STEAM technology classroom and laboratory in Seattle.


Kevin decided to get involved with the ACE program because “It brings young people into the construction industry and provides an opportunity for them to get a peek into our world and into the process of constructing a building from start to finish.” This is no exaggeration, students are engaged in the RFP stage through preconstruction and construction, and will work with the group on estimating, site logistics, sequencing, design & constructability reviews, scheduling, and safety – mimicking the efforts put into a real-life project.

Ed, who has been mentoring since he was a teen, explained that the secret to keeping the student’s engaged in these activities is to “Step away from your everyday professional language and find a way to relate it to their world.” Ian, who is a second-year ACE mentor shared that “The construction industry can often have a stigma to it, with ACE you are able to highlight the ability to make a great living in construction and show a need for people who want to work with teams and be problem solvers.”

The ACE program started at the beginning of November and will run through Memorial Day, giving the groups a chance to get to know each other and allowing the students to build real confidence in their work. Ed’s favorite part of being a mentor has been “seeing the kids have an ‘A-Ha’ moment and find excitement in learning something new.” Being able to open a student’s eyes to a career in construction is also something that brought Ian back for a second year.

At the end of it all, they will stand back and watch the students give a solo presentation (this year via webcasts!) to their peers on everything they’ve worked on over the past year. “It is fun to see them absorb the information and then communicate what they have learned back to the larger group” explained Kevin. It’s also a good reminder to us professionals of why we got into these careers in the first place!

Thank you to Kevin, Ed, and Ian for your commitment to the ACE program and for sharing your thoughts. If you’re also interested in becoming an ACE mentor, we’ve included additional advice from them below!

Kevin: “It takes patience and you must be respectful of each person’s starting point. Celebrate small achievements to build confidence and trust.”

Ian: “You get out what you put in. Make a commitment to put in the time it takes to give these kids a valuable experience.”

Ed: “It’s a long-term investment and you get out what you put in. Be enthusiastic about what you’re doing and be engaged.”