South Austin’s Crockett High School has a double dose of awesome with its new Construction Technology Program. Students who successfully complete the program can walk directly into a job on a work site. Program instructor Duane Lardon says that the starting salaries for entry-level workers “[is] substantial. I think they start at $15 an hour just at the base level.” Austin-based subcontractors looking for skilled labor to complement their teams might consider looking into the program’s pool of recent graduates.
Students who choose to continue their construction technology and project management studies in Higher Ed will earn college credit for the course. To offer the most expansive program possible, Crockett partnered with Austin Community College to develop the curriculum and ensure that the credits earned are transferable. The program began in 2009, and thus far is the only high school construction technology program in the Austin Independent School District. The school is currently building a 12,000-square-foot workshop this summer. Beginning in Fall 2015, the six-year-old program will be adding advanced carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC courses to their current offerings.
In addition to the nuts-and-bolts of the building trades, program participants learn teamwork and leadership skills. They apply their algebra and geometry skills to solve construction problems, and their science skills to understand green building techniques. Safety protocols and OSHA regulations are also an important part of the curriculum. The introductory course is one semester long, and provides foundational skills like how to safely use power tools. They build picnic tables, bookcases, and other small, student-chosen projects. Students also construct a building for sale, the proceeds of which reimburse the materials expense of the program and help it to be self-sustaining.
Field trips, career networking, and social activities give students the opportunity to interact with team members and co-workers. There are two other courses in the program: Building Trades I/CNBT 1411: Construction Methods & Materials, and Building Trades II/CNBT 1402 Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical. BT1 teaches students site layout, framing, concrete pouring, and roof framing. BT2 teaches infrastructure and interior finish work.
The program is a key initiative in providing for Austin’s construction workforce needs, which face the same skilled labor shortages and commensurate wage spikes as other booming construction markets nationwide are facing. Austin Home Builders Association vice president Emily Lubbers says that 14% of the home price increase in 2014 was due to construction labor costs. “Home builders are still just trying to meet the demand of the market and trying to ramp up their supply so they can do that,” Lubbers explains. While ramped up building regulations and protracted planning periods are partly to blame for the labor wage spike, the biggest cause was a serious shortage of skilled labor. Few young people are interested in blue-collar work, even though the construction industry offers tremendous opportunity for growth and earning potential, as Lubbers says, “the construction industry is such a great industry. It offers such a great opportunity for career growth.”
To learn about participating in the program, or to locate recent and upcoming program graduates, contact program instructor Jim Stricklan at (512) 414-7884, or firstname.lastname@example.org.