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How Can We Strengthen Construction Training Programs?

Workforce Development

From NCCER blog

The success of a construction project depends on the people involved. These professionals serve a vital purpose, and it’s only through their knowledge and direction that a build can come together. From its earliest stages to completion, strong leadership is essential to getting the job done and getting it done right.

Unfortunately, many seasoned professionals in management positions are set to retire within the next decade, leaving a vacancy the industry will need to fill. And it’s not easy — reports show that 78% of construction firms struggle to find qualified workers despite the industry’s increasingly attractive job outlook.

With this in mind, the value of improved training programs is clear, and it’s essential to encourage today’s students to research career opportunities in construction.

So how can we build on existing programs and increase interest in the industry? It’s necessary to approach the subject at a fundamental level, looking at our current system of education as we address some underlying problems. In this article, we’ll provide solutions to those problems, reviewing strategies already in practice.

Online or Accelerated Degrees in Management

Accessibility and flexibility are essential to attracting more students to a program. Many younger people who would otherwise pursue higher education don’t have the opportunity, as their jobs might demand long hours, and other responsibilities monopolize their time. Online degrees offer convenience.

Instead of sitting in a classroom, students can sit at home, meeting their professional goals in a way that accommodates their day-to-day responsibilities. Many of these programs also allow for a combination of online and face-to-face class instruction for a more comprehensive experience.

Universities that provide a B.A. degree in construction management which students can complete online are showing us the benefits of flexibility. Several online offerings are also accelerated to streamline education for those who want to finish sooner rather than later. These options are crucial to fostering tomorrow’s workforce.

Technical Training Programs

Since it takes, on average, four to nine years for a construction superintendent to gain experience, it’s vital to make training programs as accessible as possible. While it’s sometimes preferable for professionals in upper-management positions to have a college degree, today’s programs are a reasonable alternative.

To provide an example, NCCER now offers joint certification with Fails Management Institute (FMI), creating opportunities for qualified individuals who are interested in the superintendent field. NCCER and FMI developed the certification in conjunction with subject matter experts, ensuring the validity and quality of the program.

If a student passes the NCCER Construction Superintendent Assessment, completes the FMI Leadership Institute, submits the proper documentation and fills out the online application, they receive the credentials. The NCCER and FMI show how utilizing experience can be a valuable asset, and other organizations should follow their example.

Partnerships With Construction Companies

Colorado’s Construction Careers Now program has proven the potential of partnerships to make a significant difference. The four-week program is free and open to anyone, and those who attend classes at Emily Griffith Technical College can learn basic carpentry skills, electrical theory, power tool use and construction site safety.

Construction companies like Mortenson, Saunders and Hensel Phelps accept recent graduates from the program, putting them to work on projects where they can gain experience and earn opportunities for promotion. These new workers can expect to make between $12 and $17 per hour as their starting wage.

Programs like Construction Careers Now are valuable, not because they place graduates in management positions right away, but because they lay the foundation on which young professionals can build. It’s an investment which will pay off far in the future when these entry-level workers advance in their careers.

Greater Visibility and Exploration for Students

Students won’t pursue a profession in the construction industry if they don’t know what it entails. Modern technology has transformed the types of work being done in this field, and it’s important for parents and students alike to have access to more information about industry growth.

Allowing these students to explore their options will generate interest in construction, and institutions can implement programs which provide hands-on experience to give them a better idea of what they can expect.

Coconino Community College did precisely that, and their construction management technology program provides real-world opportunities to engage in the industry. Last year, students met with local contractors, learned their estimating processes and used computer software to build a budget for an actual project.

William Gonzales, a student from the CTM288 program, said he appreciated that the project was the most realistic one he’d accomplished in any of his core classes. Gonzales, who currently works as a maintenance technician, said career opportunities opened up to him after completing the course, and he intends to pursue construction technology.

Building a Better Future

The demand for skilled workers in the building trade has reached its highest peak in 10 years, and without strong training programs, the problem will remain unsolved. It’s only through an assessment and reconfiguration of today’s courses that students will begin moving in greater numbers toward jobs in construction.

Building a better future begins with a foundation in education. Ensuring this foundation is sturdy will help the industry continue to grow.

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