Work based learning was the perfect career beginning for Alex Brown-Tapia, and it solidified his dream of studying architecture. Six years ago when he was entering his sophomore year in high school, he was uncertain about his career direction but open to the idea of enrolling at ACE (Academy of Career Education). It was the first academy high school in the Reno area that was dedicated to educating students for careers in the building trades, mechanics, computer aided drafting and design (CADD), and more.
“ACE invited me to an open house. I was bored at regular school, so I liked the idea of being able to do more hands-on learning,” recalls the 21-year-old cabinet maker and draftsman.
ACE was a good fit for Alex, and it opened the door for him to work after school each day at Frank Lepori Construction in their Sparks-based cabinet shop. Alex realized he enjoyed building fine cabinetry, and he learned what crafts people need from a set of drawings to build excellent custom cabinetry. Alex went full time the day after he graduated from ACE, and he jumped at every opportunity to log on a computer to refine his design skills.
As Alex grew more proficient in CADD and more knowledgeable about construction in general, Lepori project leaders invited him to help draft details for full sets of drawings on their commercial and industrial projects. Alex has been able to work elbow-to-elbow with professionals with structural and civil engineering degrees and experience. Most importantly, he’s learned how great design and detail enables projects to come together smoothly.
“I have the advantage of being able to understand how people in the field look at a set of drawings for direction. I can also see the designer’s goals of meeting expectations for budget, schedule, function and aesthetics,” he says.
“Getting a degree in architecture is very expensive, but in my time at Lepori Construction, I have become confident I’m working in the right industry,” Alex adds. “I’m willing to dedicate the time and money to furthering my design knowledge, because I am sure this is what I want to do.”
Alex leaves Reno in August to live, work and study architecture in Sweet Home, Oregon. He plans to work in Sweet Home while taking classes to get electives and establish residency. Ultimately, he will enroll in the architecture program at University of Oregon in Eugene.
“He has the skill, context and motivation to be a strong architect,” says Frank Lepori. “He will tell you he was definitely not ready for college when he graduated from high school, but he is certainly ready now. He is a great team player, and he knows a lot about our industry. We will really miss Alex, but we hired another ACE student and are hoping for the same kind of career trajectory for him.”