by Maurey Verzier
Eastern North Carolina is a wonderful place to work and live, especially if you envision working in the construction industry. Today’s construction environment is inundated with technological advancements (in other words, really cool toys to use and operate!) for managing, documenting and constructing projects in all sectors of construction from residential and commercial to civil and industrial. Despite a strengthening industry, a labor shortage—unprecedented since 1945—is hampering growth. This labor shortage is anticipated to worsen if not addressed as a large percentage of the construction labor force is nearing retirement age. There is a strong need for new skilled trades people.
Pitt Community College is a leader in correcting the skilled labor shortage. Founded on training and developing students with skills needed to enter the labor force, Pitt Community College offers state of the art facilities, highly trained and talented instructors, and a constantly evolving curriculum to support industry standards. We maintain strong connections to local industry partners for job placement.
The Construction and Industrial Technologies (CIT) Division of Pitt Community College trains students in a variety of construction related disciplines to enter the workforce as skilled tradespeople. These programs include: Architectural Technology, Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology, Electrical Electronics Technology, Horticulture Technology, Welding Technology and Building Construction Technology.
For many people, the concept of the construction industry conjures images of scuffed up boots, hard hats, blue jeans, and a dirty job. While these are part of the picture, the industry is also becoming more high-tech, with technology incorporated in nearly every facet of construction. This includes the use of drones to document the construction process, volumetric analysis, and thermal imaging. Drones can also be used for marketing. Modular construction is the use of factory built construction components with assembly on the jobsite to will help reduce construction hazards. Building Information Modeling software is used to manage the structure, materials and operations of the building. Smart technologies on tablets and smartphones for quicker access and problem solving. Finally, Lean Construction principles are used to help with labor productivity by eliminating waste on a construction site.
New technology also targets improved safety and personal protective equipment, updated code regulations to reflect new sustainable design concepts, and new materials development for strengthened structures. These technologies and more are continuously being developed for use in the construction industry.
Students in Pitt Community Colleges CIT programs quickly learn that working on a construction site can also be very mentally and physical exhausting. The jobs are year-round in heat and cold, rain and wind with deadlines and constant phone calls. On every jobsite, there is movement. Usually forward movement towards project completion, but there can also be setbacks which slow project delivery. Yet, excitement persists on jobsites, and no two days are ever the same. The work brings a sense of accomplishment through applied hands-on skills and project completion. It gives students a powerful feeling to look at a project and say, “I built that.”
Student Live-Build Projects
Each year, students in PCC’s CIT programs work collaboratively on a Live-Build Student Project. The project spans three semesters, during which time the programs contribute to build a house. Students in the Architectural Technology program begin the project by designing a three bedroom and two-bathroom house.
Once the design is approved, foundations are installed and students from the Building Construction Technology (BCT) program build the structure, with lessons and guidance from instructors. The build begins with the floor system and continues with exterior and interior walls; followed by the installation of the roof trusses; hanging the windows and doors; roof shingles; installing vinyl siding; exterior trim (including learning how to correctly bend metal); interior trim and of course learning proper painting techniques.
Throughout the build process, students in the Electrical Electronics Technology program wire the house for electricity, lighting and controls through their Residential Wiring courses. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology program calculates the proper size HVAC system needed and installs the system, as well as run the supply and return ductwork.
One or two homes are typically built by PCC students through the Live-Build Program each year. A recently completed build project features an open-concept layout with updated bathrooms and a large kitchen as the heart of the home.
The Live-Build Projects give students a sense of pride in all they have accomplished in their first year in the BCT program. Each October, the newly built homes are sold at auction and then moved to a client’s property.
Graduates from the BCT program are qualified to begin a career in a variety of construction related tracks which include: working superintendents, project managers, crew leaders, building inspectors and project estimators. With some additional studying, graduates may sit for the Contractor’s License Exam for North Carolina. The opportunities are endless for these graduates.
Local Construction Economy
The local construction industry saw a sharp rebound in 2017, evident by the increase in residential and commercial construction projects in Greenville, Winterville and surrounding areas.
Pitt Community College works with industry partners who have designed training programs for new employees to work their way up to Project Manager in as little as one year. Recently, a North Carolina 100 Top-Rated contracting firm visited PCC and eight BCT students accepted positions to work with the company on projects across Eastern North Carolina.
It is an exciting time for students graduating with a degree in construction or a construction related field because work, projects and opportunities abound. Local contractors are in desperate need of qualified skilled help as projects are coming into the region at record speed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects construction jobs to grow at a rate of almost 5% every year. In North Carolina, salaries in residential construction start around $40,000 per year (according to the State of the N.C. Workforce Report: 2011-2020).
Is a construction career for you?
How do you know if a career in construction is right for you? Well, do you like working with your hands? Do you pay attention to details? How are your skills in math? Do you like geometry, algebra and trigonometry? Are you a dependable person and have integrity? What do you think about getting to work outside every day? Do you get a rush from standing on a building rooftop? In answering those questions, you may find that a career in construction is for you.
Maurey Verzier is the chair of the Building Construction Technology Department at Pitt Community College. She holds an Associates in Applied Science Degree in Architectural technology from Pitt Community College and a BFA in Architecture from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She is a certified Green Professional through National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). She currently serves as the Vice Chair of the local American Institute of Building Designers (AIBD) Down East Chapter and serves on the board for the Greenville-Pitt County Home Builders Association.
To learn more about the Building Construction Technology program, you can contact Maurey Verzier at 252.493.7282 or online at pittcc.edu.