Valdosta Daily Times

January 27, 2013

Wiregrass helps build Ga. one student at a time

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — A shortage of more than 16,500 skilled trade positions have been identified over the course of 2013, according to statistics provided by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development.

“It’s a need we have in the industry,” said Steve Quinn of Quinn Construction.

In terms of the construction trade, the baby boomers generation — ages 47-65 — make up 49 percent of the current construction workforce, according to statistics from GAWD.

“The gap is growing,” said Quinn.

GAWD announced the establishment of Go Build Georgia in January 2012, an initiative aimed at recruiting high school students to go into trade professions. On the same note, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College identified a need not just throughout the state but throughout our region for skilled construction workers and managers.

In October 2012, Wiregrass’ Valdosta campus held its first Careers in Construction and Engineering Fair.

More than 400 high school students from around the area attended and got a glimpse of the industry. Wiregrass took it to another level this term with the introduction of the commercial construction management associate degree program.

This new two-year, associate’s degree program will prepare students for positions such as general contractors or project managers.

Students will learn to coordinate and supervise a wide variety of construction projects including the building of all types of commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, power plants, schools, and hospitals.

“It runs the gauntlet to preparing them to be a manager in the field,” said Roy Warren, dean of technical and industrial programs.

For leaders in the industry like Quinn, the program will help keep skilled workers in our area.

At the fall of the economy, area construction workers took one of the hardest hits and left several trade workers unemployed.

“Our guys dispersed because they have a trade,” said Quinn.

The abundance of skilled workers in and around Valdosta became depleted. Now, with construction on the rise, Quinn and other contractors are in desperate need of qualified help.

“This program will help give us a workforce that is stable,” said Quinn. Wiregrass is “preparing people for jobs that we have available.”

As found in a feasibility study conducted by Wiregrass prior to the approval of the commercial construction management associate degree program, statewide projections show a 14.9 percent growth in the industry with an average salary of $83,260.

“There is a lot of glamour in the industry that isn’t immediately seen,” said Quinn.

Aside from a pay scale that rivals that of jobs that require a four-year degree, said Quinn, workers get a tremendous sense of pride as they are productive members of society working towards goals that not only better the community, but better the state.

“You get to see these things come up in front of you,” said Quinn. “It’s satisfying knowing you have a positive impact in your society.”

For people already in the construction field, this program nurtures hands-on training while adding a working understanding of how to be a leader.

“A pathway to take the cream of the crop of the work force and take them to the next level,” said Quinn.

For Quinn, sending members of his team for additional training is costly and even requires him to relinquish top workers from current projects as they are often away in places such as Atlanta. Now that this program is available in Valdosta, workers can maintain their current job and simultaneously get additional training.

“They can go to school here and keep their job going,” said Quinn.

Quinn and Wiregrass’ hope is to develop qualified workers who stay in the area to help build the local economy.

The next term for the introduction of the commercial construction management associate degree program starts in March. For more information, call Warren at (229) 468-2060.

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