Nevada’s job growth is on the rise; the state added a total of 38,300 jobs since March 2016.
Although a chunk of that growth is generated by the construction industry, skilled labor jobs and opportunities are still in high demand in the state.
That’s why Carson City’s Miles Construction partnered with Western Nevada College to incorporate the industry in educational programs.
“It’s mostly about distribution and gaming in this area, not in manufacturing,” said Vice President and Senior Project Manager Cary Richardson of Miles Construction. “We don’t have a lot of opportunity to bring people in. In general, we need workforce development to tie in with the overall economic development, and manage manufacturing products we get to build.”
In a report conducted by the National Skills Coalition, the demand for skilled labor jobs in Nevada is strong. In 2015, 51 percent of all jobs were skill labored compared to low and high skilled jobs. However, according to the report, the demand for skill labor jobs will remain strong by 2024, with 48 percent of job openings in Nevada.
Skilled labor requires higher education, but not necessarily a four-year degree. When the University of Nevada, Reno eliminated its construction program during the recession, WNC acquired it and later debuted the Ramsdell Construction Academy.
Miles Construction has worked on many projects throughout Northern Nevada, including Carson City Toyota and Carson Middle School.
Along with that, its employees are involved with community service, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, and the Builders Association of Western Nevada.
Richardson also is on the WNC Institutional Advisory Council.
“Miles sets a great example of corporate culture,” said Georgia White, director of career and technical education at WNC. “They have an outward thinking approach and they want to see how to make the community stronger, and make it a better place.”
With the involvement of Miles, the one-year program prepares enrolled students for leadership and management roles in the industry through two semesters of classes or one semester of accelerated training. Classes vary from fundamentals, blueprinting, management, safety, materials, and methods.
If the student is unsure of which direction to take in the industry, the classes —along with Miles — ease that stress by providing a variety of options in the field, through on-site tours, internships, and seminars with real-world data and scenarios.
“We need to train since it’s a limiting factor,” Richardson said. “We need to have the training available to the school and let students know it’s there.”
The classes also apply for students who wish to further pursue a bachelor’s in construction management.
Just by earning 24 credits, this program could help an individual skyrocket in a career by investing in its offered classes. The program is a part of WNC’s bachelor of technology degree curriculum, including a jump-starter accelerated training for high school students.
WNC construction management instructor Robert Ford said the program helped at least 200 graduates obtain jobs over the years. On average, at least 45 students are enrolled each year in the program, for both associate’s and bachelor’s.
“It’s a 20th century thought process,” he said. “We need technicians and surveyors in the field. Sky’s the limit with technology associated with construction.”
Even in a two-year associate degree program, students will still learn the basics of construction management, and would make $30,000 to $57,000 per year, with an associate of applied science degree in construction tech.
Students who graduate with a bachelor of construction tech degree in Nevada may expect a salary range from $66,000 to $110,000 per year.
Jesse Maxim is an alumnus of the program and has succeeded in the construction realm since he graduated with his four-year degree from WNC in 2012. He was hired shortly after by Miles Construction and now serves as superintendent for the company.
Maxim said without the bachelor’s, he wouldn’t have been able to capitalize his goals.
“You can only learn so much in a classroom,” he said. “I’ve obtained a ton of knowledge I would’ve never gotten in a regular class but the baseline I’ve received also helped. The education also benefits local contractors; when you can have your hand in the resource with the workforce, it’s a proactive approach to continue in the industry.”
Conflicts of captivation: stereotypes
For a student fresh out of high school or for anybody wanting to pursue a career in construction, the salary range and experience for both degrees are a great start. However, it’s not enough to convince people to enroll in the program, especially if regional industries are stating there’s a high demand.
So, what’s the deal?
Richardson said one of the aspects could be the stereotype of construction but in reality, an individual can easily work their way to management if they invest in the program.
“Back in the 1940s, it was socially acceptable after high school,” he said. “There were a lot of opportunities in manufacturing until it went overseas. Then, the focus of high school became preparing for college.”
Richardson said it’s important for students to attend college, but today’s society is missing an entire segment.
“We also need manufacturers, carpenters, and more,” he said. “They all require skill sets, but you can do it out of high school and receive great benefits.”
Another factor that may be driving high school students and individuals away is the scare from the recession. In 2007, the industry lost at least 60,000 employees statewide, Ford said.
“We’re still not seeing folks with where they need to be,” he said. “We have got to change the culture and with that, you’re going to have growth with companies involved.”
Because of the recession, the industry lost baby boomers, or the majority of them are now retiring, White said.
“We’re losing generations on both ends,” she said.
Richardson said there’s an aspect where people may believe construction is all about having a hammer in hand and is commonly mistaken. But an increase of diversity is needed, he said.
“It’s still a male dominated industry but it’s still changing, especially in the management and support sides,” he said. “Women bring a different dynamic and this industry could really use that.”
Ford offers OSHA and other national certifications relating to the industry as a gateway for high school students, but it has been a difficulty since Carson High School canceled its trades program in 2014.
“No one seemed interested,” he said. “This program isn’t costing them anything through high school.”
Richardson and Ford said the outlook for the career has yet to change, but the current solution is to reach out to parents and invite more companies to assist in the program.
Expansion is key
While the program benefits the 45 students enrolled, WNC is preparing to expand the program to high schools.
Going beyond hiring events, the program is in the works of expanding to Silver Stage High School in Silver Springs, Smith Valley High School and Yerington High School.
But as for WNC campuses, the program is located at the Carson City campus for now.
“We’re not competing with apprenticeship programs with other colleges,” Ford said. “We’re just focusing on the management.”
However, the program will be available for the first time online through WNC in the fall, as a non-traditional program.
Ford said his concern is the fact Nevada ranks last in education and is wanting to help change that by focusing on growth retention with supplemental programs, especially for a high-demand field that’s needed in the state.
“People don’t realize the biggest investment is to have a home and a place to live,” Ford said. “Why not prepare your child for the biggest expense in life and nothing else?”