Western Nevada College construction management degree takes business approach to success

Mitch Burns, with Lumos and Associates, demonstrates soil testing techniques in a Construction Management class at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015.

Mitch Burns, with Lumos and Associates, demonstrates soil testing techniques in a Construction Management class at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev., on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015.

As the national building industry in Northern Nevada ramps up once again, Western Nevada College’s Construction Management and Construction Technology programs are shifting emphasis to meet the demand for skilled managers.

WNC Construction Management instructor Robert Ford said the college’s Bachelor of Technology Degree program in Construction Management has expanded its focus on the business side of construction.

“One of my goals is to place more emphasis on management, team-building and leadership,” he said. “In four years, the students will be able to start their own business if they want to,” with a bachelor’s degree in hand.

Ford has updated the program’s curriculum and implemented an active industry advisory board, while adding estimating software and surveying equipment to the program. He has also established a Construction Academy geared toward bringing talented beginners into the field.

“We’re adopting a 21st-Century approach to the construction industry,” Ford said. “In the two-year Associate Degree program, students learn the fundamentals of construction management. In the four-year Bachelor’s Degree program, they apply those fundamentals to reality.

“Team-building and team management are central to construction management. That’s why we are increasing the business emphasis of the program.”

Becoming a competent construction manager requires being a creative thinker and a problem-solver, he said. “It’s important to apply these traits because no job is the same.

“A lot of people get confused when they mention construction management,” Ford said. “They say, ‘I don’t want to learn how to build a house,’ but they don’t realize that many of these professionals are earning six figures each year to manage those skilled individuals.”

A community advisory board that includes area construction industry leaders gives the curriculum focus and credibility, and assists students in finding their first job.

“Leaders in the industry are very involved with us,” Ford said. “They know I’m not going to send them someone who doesn’t have the ability or the potential.”

Aaron West, executive director of the Builders Alliance, of Western Nevada, recognizes the importance of cultivating a skilled and educated construction workforce in Nevada.

“As the state’s leader in construction industry advocacy and workforce development, the Builders Alliance recognizes that quality construction training and education programs are the important first step in developing a skilled workforce in Nevada,” West said. “WNC recognizes this and continues to develop innovative programming to meet the challenges of our industry.”

West said students can begin benefitting from their education before leaving WNC.

“The construction industry provides many high-paying opportunities, with endless growth potential,” West said.

Salary data ranges for students who graduate with a Bachelor of Construction Technology degree in Nevada are from $66,050 to $110,910 per year.

A student who graduates with a WNC two-year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Construction Technology can earn in the range of $30,460 to $57,190 per year.

“The programs offered at WNC allow for individuals to work in the industry and earn a wage while continuing their education and career development,” West said. “By working with the Builders Alliance, WNC also provides students with real-world opportunities with regional employers.”

By the end of WNC’s 120-unit Construction Management program — a degree that will soon be renamed a Bachelor of Applied Science, students are expected to apply the fundamentals they have learned in construction management to the workplace. The program is management-focused to prepare students to become leaders at construction job sites.

“The four-year program is also crucial for current project supervisors who don’t have a degree,” Ford said. “Any major company is going to require their managers to have a degree because of the size and investment of the project.”

By fall 2016, Ford plans to offer program courses both online and in the classroom, allowing those who have jobs the opportunity to increase their knowledge and earning power at their convenience. Six of the classes are already available online.

The new two-semester Ramsdell Go Pro Construction Academy will be led by WNC construction instructor Nigel Harrison. It will provide up to 30 individuals with the knowledge to make an entry-level start in construction. Students will also receive the added financial benefit of having class textbook expenses covered by the federal Carl Perkins Grant.

In two semesters, students can collect 18 college credits toward the two-year program, receive an Occupational Safety Councils of America card, earn three National Center for Construction Education and Research certifications, and an NCCER wallet card.

In addition, area high school seniors who are interested in a construction career may participate in the program through WNC’s Jump Start College initiative.

“The skills that students learn in two semesters at WNC are equivalent to what high school students learn in three years,” Ford said.

The program begins with an introduction to the construction industry, followed by construction technology applications, including safety. After the two-semester academy, students will have the competency to be an introductory crew leader on a job site, Ford said.

“If they wish to add to their academy education, they can proceed to the two-year program and earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. We offer a majority of classes in the evenings for the two-year and four-year programs,” Ford said. “Our program is set up for convenience. We give students the option to go out there and go to work, and take our courses in the evening or online.”

For more information, contact Ford at 775-445-3353 or Robert.ford@wnc.edu.


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