(WACO) – Qualified workers for construction trades are expected to be in demand in 2017 amid a projected increase in building projects along with a wave of personnel retirements, according to a nationwide construction survey released earlier this month. Texas State Technical College is preparing to fill that demand.
More than 60 percent of Texas construction companies are expected to increase their payroll this year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America’s survey “Expecting a Post-Election Bump: The 2017 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook.” More than 130 construction firms responded to the organization’s Texas survey.
“We are very worried about where the next generation of subcontractors are going to come from,” said Scott Bland, president of Jim Bland Construction in McGregor and board president of the Heart of Texas Builders Association in Waco.
More than 30 percent of construction businesses indicated they were having a challenging time finding salaried and craft workers. Some companies have resorted to providing bonuses, incentives, increased pay and better benefits to attract workers, according to the survey.
Texas State Technical College’s campuses in Harlingen and Waco have Building Construction Technology programs which have experienced enrollment boosts.
The Harlingen campus offers a three-semester Certificate in Building Construction focusing on residential and light commercial construction. There is also a five-semester Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology concentrating in heavy commercial construction and construction project management.
“The Building Construction Program numbers have doubled compared to this time last year, telling me that the need for a trained construction workforce is growing at a faster pace than the past,” said Rolando Cuellar, lead instructor of TSTC in Harlingen’s Building Construction Technology program. “The program plans to continue recruiting and working with elementary, middle schools, high school students, continuing education students, local cities and nonprofit organizations to help get the word out that the construction industry wants you.”
The Waco campus offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology – Project Management Inspection Specialization and a Certificate in Building Construction – Craftsman. Students can also work toward certifications in Energy Efficiency Specialist, Plumbing and Pipefitting Technology and Electrical Construction Technology and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology.
“In six semesters you can get an associate degree and two certificates,” said Earl Leonard, lead instructor in TSTC in Waco’s Building Construction Technology program. “We get calls for tradesmen, plumbers, carpenters and solar installers. There are also management requirements. We have some people call for estimators.”
There are efforts underway to create a pathway for potential students to follow.
Bland said the addition of a construction science division at the Waco Independent School District’s Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy in the 2017-18 academic year should help build a crop of high school students who have desires to study at TSTC and eventually enter the construction industry.
“The main thing is to get the information out to the kids that there are wonderful careers in our industry and that it is dying for applicants,” Bland said. “You can make good money and raise a family and have a good career. It’s a message we haven’t been getting across the last 20 years. I think that is why we have a manpower deficit right now.”
Bland said he wants potential employees to be goal-oriented and have good time-management skills.
“We massively encourage girls to get into this field,” Bland said. “There is no reason why we need a male-dominated industry. These kids – 22-, 23-years-old – have certifications and making money and don’t have student loan debt. They are the ones buying cars and these are our consumers. It’s a win for everybody.”
Perry A. Vaughn, executive director of the Associated General Contractors Rio Grande Chapter in Harlingen, said work is occurring with TSTC and Rio Grande Valley school districts, including the Harlingen Independent School District, to revamp construction trades programs.
New workers are expected to be needed in Texas for hospital, public building, retail, warehouse, lodging and school construction – the areas projected to have the most building projects this year, according to the survey.
“The strengthening of the peso would help us in the Valley, but we anticipate a strong year in 2017 regardless,” Vaughn said.