Construction Technology students at the CTE building in Hancock measure and cut siding for a building project that will introduce them to all aspects of construction, including plumbing and wiring, by the end of the school year.
HANCOCK — The Copper Country Intermediate School District’s CTE program strives to prepare Construction Technology students to enter a high-paying job market as demand increases for skilled construction workers.
According to a Feb. 9, 2023 report of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), nearly 1 in 4 construction workers are older than 55 years of age and they are retiring from the workforce. Retirements will continue to whittle away at the construction workforce.
“Many of these older construction workers are also the most productive, refining their skills over time,” ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu says. “The number of construction laborers, the most entry-level occupational title, has accounted for nearly 4 out of every 10 new construction workers since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of skilled workers has grown much slower or, in the case of certain occupations like carpenter, declined.”
The CTE Construction Technology course, offered at the CTE building in Hancock, is designed to prepare students for job entry in the construction field or advanced work in a technical school. The program provides them with the knowledge and skills to build a house from the foundation to its completion.
At the beginning of the year, each class starts with a 10-hour OSHA class each student must pass before they can enter the shop and use all of the equipment and tools, Construction Technology Instructor Michael Randell said. So, that 10-hour OSHA card is good for life.
The OSHA 10-hour training is designed for entry-level construction and general industry workers, the OSHA website states. While the OSHA Outreach Training Program is voluntary, employers may require workers to earn an OSHA 10 card before starting work. This training is mandatory in certain states, cities, and jurisdictions. Upon completion, students are awarded a certificate card.
Randell said typically, the course is a one-year program, but there are also second-year students working on a separate project from the first-year students.
The first-year students are currently constructing a mock bathroom, which is being built inside a structure resembling a shed. Randell said the project is taking the students through all aspects of the construction industry.
“They framed it up, they’ve done the roofing, it’s now sided, and they’re now moving to the inside to the electrical and plumbing,” he said. “They’re going to install a toilet, a vanity, and a shower, install flooring, learn how to do drywall.”
At the same time, those students are helping the second-year students construct a tiny home.
The students began the project with a CAD program, designing what it would look like outside, said Randell. They figured out what (materials) they needed to complete it, including an 8-by-20-foot metal frame trailer.
The design had to be created with some considerations based on Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) parameters for towing on state roads. The trailer and the house can only be a maximum of 6.5 feet in width and a maximum height of 13.5 feet. The students had to design the tiny house within those parameters, building it on a 20-foot-long trailer to come up with a design.
The students also chose the color of the siding, the sizes of the windows, and the color of the window trim, Randell said.
“I’m here to help out and to make sure we’re meeting egress and the loft area for the windows and the seating area,” Randell said, “but as far as the kitchen design and the bathroom layout, that’s all done by the students.”
Randell said that for those students who want to go into Construction Management, the CTE program offers Articulated Credit with Northern Michigan University or Gogebic Community College.
“If they decide to enter Construction Management, we have an accredited credit from Northern Michigan University and Gogebic College. That will further their Construction Management degree if they decide to enter that field.”
CTE Director, Shawn Kolbus, explained that articulation allows high school students to earn college credit for work completed in their high school or career and technical education programs. The articulation agreement outlines specific guidelines for a seamless transfer from one institution to the other. Students use articulation agreements to ensure that the courses they complete in high school will not have to be repeated at the post-secondary level.
Randell said that another positive aspect of the program is for those students desiring to go straight into the construction field; with the assistance of the CTE Advisory Board, Construction Technology can help students with job placement.
“Because the industry is in dire need of workers,” Randell said, “there are plenty of opportunities to be successful in the field.”
In its Feb. 9 report, ABC stated that the construction industry averaged more than 390,000 job openings monthly in 2022. That is the highest level on record, and the industry unemployment rate of 4.6% in 2022 was the second lowest on record, higher than only the 4.5% unemployment rate observed in 2019. National payroll construction employment was 231,000 higher in December 2022 than in December 2021.
The ABC went to state that in 2024, the industry will need to bring in more than 342,000 new workers on top of normal hiring to meet industry demand, and that’s presuming that construction spending growth slows significantly next year.
According to a proprietary model developed by ABC, the construction industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2023 to meet the labor demand.
“The construction industry must recruit hundreds of thousands of qualified, skilled construction professionals each year to build the places where we live, work, play, worship, learn, and heal,” said Michael Bellaman, ABC president and CEO. “As the demand for construction services remains high, filling these roles with skilled craft professionals is vital to America’s economy and infrastructure rebuilding initiatives.”