Unique collaboration offers MTI students hands-on construction industry experience
The construction industry is facing a critical shortage of young workers. By 2017, it is expected that the shortage will be over 2 million people. According to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer Report, one-sixth of construction workers will retire over the course of the next decade.
Gage Brothers Concrete is acutely aware of this problem and has committed to helping a local technical college create a talent pipeline of qualified construction workers in South Dakota.
The Architectural Design and Building Construction program at the Mitchell Technical Institute (S.D.) is one of the school’s original two-year programs, offered since MTI’s founding in 1968. The program has 100% placement and an average starting wage of about $14 per hour, according to data gathered from 2014 graduates.
The most notable feature of the program is the two annual house construction projects carried out by the faculty and students each year. Since 1969, the program has built 98 houses that have been sold to Mitchell area residents.
The program also includes a robust CAD component, ensuring that each graduate gets construction as well as design experience. The philosophy of the program is to create builders who understand design and design technicians who have a full grasp of construction techniques.
The most recent addition to MTI’s renowned curriculum is a commercial construction module.
Each day during their final semester of education, students will engage in classroom instruction to learn the principles of some facet of commercial construction, and will then move on to their lab portion of the day where they will actually work on a project related to that day’s lecture. This combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience is very beneficial both to the student and to the student’s future employer.
The module will be built with more than 1,300 square feet (16 pieces) of Gage Brothers concrete. Gage Brothers has given a gift-in-kind of $20,000, knocking down the structure’s price tag to approximately $16,000.
Puetz Construction has also been invaluable to this new endeavor; as Mark Puetz and Doug McCune have designed the structure and “have their fingerprints all over it,” according to Mark Gerhardt, Vice President of Industry Relations and Development for MTI.
Partnerships such as the one with Gage Brothers will ensure that MTI graduates experience a variety of commercial construction methods including design, documentation, welding, concrete and finish work in a dedicated commercial construction lab course.
“Without Gage Brothers philanthropic role in this project, we would not be able to introduce this new curriculum to our students this year,” added Gerhardt. “In addition to its generous donation of the precast panels, our students will benefit from the on-site technical expertise provided by Gage Brothers personnel.”
This project will ultimately provide MTI students with a level of exposure to commercial construction that was not possible in the past. Gage Brothers quickly recognized the mutually beneficial nature of this collaboration and was more than willing to help.
“The commercial construction module is a shining example of how the precast concrete industry can collaborate and partner with technical schools to provide students with excellent opportunities for career exposure and hands-on learning that engages and excites them about future career possibilities,” said Joe Bunkers, Gage Brothers Vice President of Preconstruction. “We were thrilled to help make this hands-on career exploration possible through an in-kind donation of precast concrete.”
MTI graduates find employment with lumberyards, building contractors, architectural firms, and commercial construction companies.
Gerhardt added, “MTI is grateful to Gage Brothers; it’s this kind of industry participation that is so critical to the success of technical education.”