Jaime Salinas; Alfredo Martinez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – There is always a need for skilled construction workers in Texas. And the skills that will make those workers successful are offered in the Building Construction Technology program at Texas State Technical College.

Rick Vargas, TSTC’s Building Construction Technology lead instructor at the Harlingen campus, has 13 years of industry expertise from his work with companies such as Green Rubiano & Associates and Peacock General Contractors in Harlingen.

Vargas teaches his students through commercial-type construction projects and real-world scenarios during lab sessions.

“What I do is create field leaders,” he said. “I have one student who serves as the foreman. He or she is in charge of that group. They talk amongst their team to ensure the workload is completed. The foreman also reports to me with any questions their team has. You must be an excellent communicator.”

Fourth-semester student Jaime Salinas is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology. He said the wealth of knowledge he has learned in the program is amazing.

“I have learned the correct procedures that are best when handling different projects,” he said. “Those examples begin from the foundation, to setting up a roof, putting up the walls, and other things. The skills these instructors have educated me with is incredible.”

Fourth-semester student Alfredo Martinez also is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology.

He said each instructor brings different values and techniques to the program.

“I try to use their talents and create my own style,” he said. “For one lesson, I had to plan for the price estimate of a house. Those calculations were for the cost of materials and labor. I enjoyed it because it does give you a real-world perspective.”

The instructors teach important skills – technical, soft and management – that shape their students’ perspectives.

The technical aspect consists of using hands-on tools that are used in the field. The soft skills pertain to communication, such as managing a crew.

Communication is highly utilized in the program’s management course. Students learn how to review contracts, locate work opportunities and manage a company. They also learn the process of competitive bidding. Most importantly, they learn how to ensure that safety plans are in place.

In addition, students are taught about inflation and are required to contact vendors regarding equipment costs in the estimating course.

“Several of my students are surprised with the high cost of equipment quotes,” Vargas said. “I tell them to compare that to the cost of an item in 2019. That is a direct effect of inflation.”

Vargas still communicates with several former graduates who have excelled in the construction industry.

“They are all grateful for the foundation we taught them,” he said. “Those are the industry skills that will bridge current students toward a successful construction profession.”

According to onetonline.org, construction managers in Texas can earn around $86,000 per year. The number of such jobs in the state is expected to increase 17% by 2028.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology and a certificate of completion in Building Construction – Craftsman at the Harlingen and Waco campuses.

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

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