Magazine article Techniques

Building the Future in and beyond the Classroom

Magazine article Techniques

Building the Future in and beyond the Classroom

Article excerpt

The construction worker who possesses brute power rather than brainpower is no more. Wether or not htis sterotype was ever tru in times past-today it's clear that anyone entering the building trades must be well prepared and educated. Those involved in construction education agree that constantly improving training programs will build the future for the industry. And career and technical schools have an important role to paly in this process.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts one million new jobs will be available for skilled construction workers by 2005.

Anyone who knows the diverse skills needed to work in the construction industry today understands that training has to be the top priority of employers and contractors, industry associations, craft labor unions and career and technical schools. From installing intricate piping systems or electrical wiring to reading blueprints and using computer-aided drafting, these craftspeople do much, much more than just pound nails.

Today, the skilled building trades offer not just jobs but true vocations: well-paid, challenging and usually requiring extensive training and continuing education. Young people who are interested in the industry need more than physical strength; they must also be ready to exercise their mental muscle.

Setting Standards

In the past, a major problem in the construction industry was that various contractors, organizations and schools trained workers differently, and there was little overall consistency. If a worker left one job or region, he or she would not necessarily be able to pick up in a new job without further training.

Enter the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)-an education foundation started in 1995 by 11 of the world's largest and most progressive construction companies and several national construction associations. Its purpose was to address the workforce shortage facing the construction industry and to develop standardized construction and maintenance curricula. Today, NCCER is supported by hundreds of leading construction companies, manufacturers and national trade associations.

According to NCCER Director of School-to-Career Programs Kurt Morauer, the Center offers a workforce career path to help guide young people from high school into the construction industry, providing both craft and management tracks. Those interested in craft training can transition from a traditional or vocational high school program into either an apprenticeship or training at a technical college. Morauer makes a point of stressing the importance of education in the typically "blue collar" profession of construction.

"The key for success in the U.S. today is not necessarily going to a four-year college," he notes, "but it is through some type of continuous learning. And this is certainly true in the construction industry."

Morauer says that there are three main types of training available in the industry: the registered apprenticeship model, standardized craft training, and specific task training.

"What is needed is the type of training that's most appropriate for the situation," he says. "In some areas, employers see it as most important to have apprenticeship training, and in such instances this helps create an easy transition from job to job. In other regions, apprenticeships are not as emphasized. We find the most important thing is that training comes in a high-quality program."

The NCCER develops and publishes standardized construction and maintenance curricula for more than 30 crafts. The modular programs are competency-based and include written and performance evaluations. NCCER curricula are taught nationwide by accredited NCCER sponsors, such as the Warren County Career Center in Lebanon, Ohio (mentioned further in this article.)

Teachers who guide students into the construction industry should talk with their local employers to understand what type of training is most sought after in their regions, advises Morauer. …

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