The construction industry is more than swinging a hammer — although that’s not a bad thing to do. Jobs in this industry are varied and plentiful. There’s a strong need right now for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, welders, pipe fitters and more. Training is available all over the state at community colleges. In many cases, students interested in getting an early start in this booming industry can begin training in high school.
The Mississippi Construction Education Foundation has partnered with the State Department of Education to develop a program for high schools to offer technical and construction classes for credit. This training begins the process of getting into construction. The foundation’s executive director, Gary Bambauer, says 4,800 high school students participated last year, and he expects 400 to 500 students this year.
Following high school, the foundation’s apprenticeship program is the way to go. It allows students to earn while they learn skills and earn credits in community college classes.
“Employers are willing to work with students and pay them to go to school. The program is designed for students to work full time while training,” Bambauer said. “About 52 percent of apprentices have come through the training classes. These students earn 32 college hours and have no loan to pay back. At that point, they can continue on to college for a four-year degree or begin careers in the industry. They’re not limited.”
The community college programs follow national accrediting guidelines, so if you move to another state, the training can continue. Bambauer calls this training a positive career move for young people. Just about all construction skills are needed at this time with no slow down in sight.
“The construction industry is going very strong,” the director said. “There is building going on all over the state. The Jackson area, the Coast and Tupelo are especially busy now with downtown redevelopment, rebuilding from the hurricane and building for the Toyota plant. Another nuclear plant is going to be built at Port Gibson, and we hope we don’t have to bring in workers from out of state.”
Often community colleges partner with construction industry companies to offer new programs. For instance, Pearl River Community College has a heavy equipment operator program in partnership with the John Deere Company and Stribling Equipment, which has each lent four pieces of equipment to double the program. Students in the class have done some projects for the Poplarville and Picayune school districts. It’s a big advantage for them to be able to do real construction projects.
Other programs provide a direct link to the world of work through a program that allows students to attend classes for two weeks, followed by two weeks of work.
“It’s innovative and students work with companies like a cooperative program,” said Pearl River Community College workforce training director Scott Alsobrooks. “This way, they really get to know the company and can earn a pay check while going to school. Companies can pick new employees from the students, too.”
Course offerings change to fit industry needs, but some of the classes currently being offered are construction engineering technology, equipment operation, architectural drafting, heating and air conditioning, electrical technology, welding, masonry, residential carpentry, cement/concrete, large construction, road building and municipal utility projects.
To find out how you can secure your future with a job in construction, talk to your high school guidance counselor or visit the Construction Education Foundation’s website at www.mcef.net.