Projections indicate that this nation will need more builders and construction workers in coming years. The question is will we be able to fill those jobs?
The Cherokee County Career and Technology Center Construction Technology program is working to equip interested students with the skills they need for the future. According to Instructor Ricky Witt, the program at CCCTC is a two-year program, which offers students the option to complete a third year if they desire.
“We cover the basics of safety on construction jobs,” said Witt. “Then after we get that covered, we go into the shop and we start covering a little more in depth on the building. And we are also covering masonry now with the NCCR curriculum.”
“This can get students credentialed,” said Witt. “They will have the opportunity all across the United States. It helps them get jobs with larger companies in commercial or even residential work.”
According to Witt, his students are prepared to go right to work when they finish the program.
“They may still need a little more finishing as far as trim work, cabinet making, but they will be ready for entry level jobs in the construction field,” said Witt.
“I have been told that the building industry is going to have a resurgence pretty soon because we have a pent up need,” said Witt. “People are afraid of the economy, not knowing what it is going to do. We still have needs that need to be met, so those folks who have been putting off building, I think as the economy improves, there is going to be an even greater need for skilled workers. There is actually a deficiency. There are not enough skilled workers.
“With baby boomers, the years left in the construction business are pretty limited now,” said Witt. “There’s going to need to be somebody to replace them. Otherwise we will be left with a void of skilled workers. Hopefully we will continue to find students who are interested in building and teach them how to work in the construction field, whether it is carpentry, masonry, welding or any aspect of plumbing. We need workers in all those areas.”
Currently, Witt feels good about the numbers in his classes.
“We have good numbers,” said Witt. “They could be a little better and we are trying to improve those. A minimum of 12 per class is the state minimum. It averages out to what the state requires.”
“We have more and more females interested in doing this type work and we welcome as many as we can get,” said Witt. “I have had female supervisors on large construction jobs. It is not just a man’s field anymore.”
Witt said it doesn’t take long for a student to determine if the construction field is right for him (or her) or not.
“A lot of them will decide in high school whether they want to take it or not but where the rubber meets the road is when they are on the job site where they are being paid and then they will know or their boss will know if they are suited for this pretty much, so it doesn’t take long to figure that out,” said Witt. “It takes a certain type of person who likes to work with their hands. They have to be able to visualize a project before the project is completed. A lot of people thrive on that sort of thing. They like to be able to build something and then stand back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
“Pushing papers is right for some people but it is hard to see the results of that after it is done,” said Witt. “You might build a person a house that will serve several generations and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction out of that, The students who realize that a lot of times will make a lifelong pursuit of bettering their skills because they enjoy it. I tell students if they find something they enjoy doing, they will never have to work a day in their life because they enjoy getting up and going to work or whatever occupation they have decided. It id not drudgery, it is an enjoyment. That is how I look at it. I have always enjoyed doing it. It is hard work, but I don’t mind hard work and when you can see what you have done, you get a lot of self-satisfaction out of it. That is what I tell students in the beginning. If you want to step back and see what you have done building is a good way to do it. It is not easy work but it is satisfying.”
Witt estimated that his students have constructed around 150 storage buildings, which have been used in this community over the years.
“I think students have enjoyed doing this work,” said Witt. “It is the closest thing to building a house we can get to. They are only here for a short time and if we went off somewhere to build a bigger project, it wouldn’t be feasible.”
“It is like in baseball, everyone can’t bat at the same time,” said Witt.
Witt displayed a CNC router, which is used in his program.
“They can import pictures off the Internet,” said Witt. “Once you put all the information into the computer, it does that itself.”
“A cabinet shop would use this sort of thing decorating their doors,” said Witt. “They can also use it to cut out their rails too. When they economy picks back up, more will be used.”
Witt and students extend their appreciation to a volunteer in the community who volunteered his time to come in a few days a week to shared with students on woodturning, making duck calls, bowls and other creations before their eyes.
“We want to teach those kids work ethic,” said Witt. “Just that attitude of having the right work ethic will go with them through their career. Attitude is about 90 percent of everything. If you’ve got the right attitude, you can learn whatever you want to do.”