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Advance Your Construction Career Through Education or Training

Advance Your Construction Career Through Education or Training

What sorts of construction skills are in demand in 2011, as the industry begins to dig out from one of its worst recessions in memory? Simply put, construction and design firms and project owners are looking for people with the know-how to bid successfully for projects and execute them profitably while managing risk and paving the way for future business. That’s why this is a great time to add to your construction skill set with training or education. 

Yes, tradespeople and construction managers are in oversupply -- but most lack completely up-to-date training. “There are too many people in construction who say they know what they’re doing, but they don’t pay enough attention to what’s important to their employers,” says Eric Sanderson, founder of Builders Campus, which offers live, online training in construction management.

And what kinds of construction jobs might that top training qualify you for? The possibilities include titles like these in Monster job postings: vice president of construction operations, construction commissioning engineer for a naval facility, bilingual (French/English) construction professionals to build projects in Africa, construction field engineer for an energy company, and horizontal construction engineer in the Army National Guard for site preparation and grading.

Whether you’re looking for work in construction or hoping to move up in the industry, there are more ways than ever to upgrade your qualifications. Here’s a guide to some of the best avenues for construction education and training.

Trade Groups Offer Resources and Training

Construction trade groups have training resources for both new entrants to the field and experienced hands. The Associated General Contractors of America maintains a directory of education and training resources for construction professionals.

The Home Builders Institute (HBI), the workforce development division of the National Association of Home Builders, runs a variety of courses in construction and management, some in conjunction with the US Department of Labor’s Jobs Corps.

HBI also offers training for those who are ready to trade their hammers for iPads. “If you’re a carpenter who wants to move up, we have courses for field superintendents,” says Fred Humphreys, CEO of HBI.

Sophisticated Construction-Management Programs at Colleges and Universities

Construction management is a dynamic college major and a growing field of graduate study. To get the lay of the land, check with the American Council for Construction Education, an accreditation body for higher-education programs across the country in construction management and related fields.

A number of community colleges offer an associate’s degree in construction management, an economical route to a well-rounded education in the fundamentals of the profession. Check with your local community college or state community-college association to learn more.

Some colleges and universities offer multiyear programs to prepare students for careers as construction executives. Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, has both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in construction management.

But you don’t necessarily need to earn a degree to benefit from higher education in construction management or its subspecialties. University of California, Davis Extension, for example, is offering a certificate program in construction estimating beginning in the fall of 2011.

Advanced Training for 21st Century Construction Methods

Fifty years ago, an architect would design a project and it would go out to the low bidder and be built, says Frederick Gould, a professor of construction management at Roger Williams. “Today, projects are more complicated,” he says. “They involve fast tracking, and the builder works collaboratively in parallel processes with designers and owners.”

"Younger students are getting hired because of their technical savvy,” Gould says. “Young people are comfortable with online and CAD and information modeling -- all the things that fellows with the company for 25 years are not up on.”

Is an undergraduate degree enough to launch a high-level career in construction management? “You go for a master’s if you’re getting geared up to run a company, not just individual projects,” says Gould.

Online Training in Construction-Management Foundations and Innovations

For a more targeted approach to training or continuing education, an online program may be the best approach.

E-learning companies like the just-launched Builders Campus offer Web-based courses in project management fundamentals, covering topics including project tracking, cash flow, scheduling, and subcontractor and supplier management. Builders Campus also offers courses on advanced scheduling strategies and managing project finances; more courses are in development. “It’s efficient for construction workers to fit training into their days an hour or two at a time,” says Sanderson.

The US Green Building Council gives inexpensive Webinars on continuing-education topics ranging from how to build a business case for green buildings to implementing LEED sustainability standards in campus settings.

Learn more about construction careers.

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