It used to be that apprenticeships prepared young people for a career in construction, starting, literally, from the ground up, pouring concrete and hanging drywall.
In some places, particularly in unionized areas, this still happens, but the young people in these apprenticeship programs are not usually headed for a management position.
Now, young people learn both the construction business and the business of construction through accredited degree programs such as the Building Construction and Contracting curriculum offered at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA.
The demand is high for graduates of the program, according to assistant professor William Zabel.
“There are three or four job openings available for every graduate,” said William Zabel, assistant professor in the School of Technology which includes the construction program. “The starting salaries for entry-level graduates range from the upper $30s to the lower $40s.”
Recently, 22 students in Zabel’s site construction and construction equipment management classes traveled to Yancey Bros. Co. headquarters in Atlanta to get a first-hand look at what goes on in the construction equipment business.
“They [Yancey Bros.] really put on a great tour for the students,” Zabel said. “They are a first-class operation.”
“One of the highlights was when the students were able to get on some of the smaller equipment and actually operate it,” Zabel said.
Zabel said he chose Yancey for a tour because “in real life, these students will have to deal with equipment acquisition, types, capabilities, maintenance and repair.”
And Yancey Bros. was happy to provide the experience, said Jim Radcliffe, marketing and promotions manager for Yancey.
“It not only benefits us, but it benefits the industry,” Radcliffe said, “by preparing a new generation of contractors — by laying the groundwork for the next generation.”
The tour allowed the students “to see another side of the business they don’t see in the classroom,” Radcliffe said. “They were amazed to see we have an engine transmission rebuild shop, an undercarriage shop, a hydraulic shop, a machining and fabrication shop and a hydraulic test bench,” he said.
“When they saw the warehouse they said ’you carry this many parts?’ and we told them we have to because you can’t afford to wait two or three days for a part.”
“It gives them a better understanding of what’s going on.”
Yancey, the oldest Caterpillar dealer in the country, has been in business since 1914 and operates four divisions — Yancey Bros. Co., the heavy equipment arm; Cat Rental, which handles rentals and Allied Tools; Yancey Building Construction Products, a non-heavy equipment division, and Sun Belt Power Systems, which handles over-the-road Cat engines and power generating units.
Yancey offers its own management and sales training programs “and we’re looking for good people all the time,” Radcliffe said. Information on the company and job listings are available at the company web site at www.yanceybros.com.
The Georgia Southern University Building Construction and Contracting program grew out of the college’s industrial technology program, established in 1951. The building construction program was established in 1973. In 1980, the program was accredited by the National Association of Industrial Technology. In 1995, the program received accreditation from the American Council of Construction Education.
Besides classroom instruction, the program includes labs in
• Building site layout using surveying equipment;
• Simulated structural steel building erection, using aluminum framing, a crane, pneumatic wrenches and H.S. bolt;
• Electrical wiring of framing including circuit panels, cable, lights, receptacles, etc.;
• Land surveying, using theodolites, levels, steel tapes, etc.;
• Concrete slab-on-grade installation using finishing machines and a variety of concrete hand tools;
• Architectural drafting and sketching;
• Concrete form work and steel reinforcing assembly; and
• Estimating and scheduling from actual building plans.
Zabel said that 500 have graduated from the program so far, 36 in 1998-99 and about 50 in 1999-2000.
About 40 percent go into residential construction, he said, another 40 into the commercial construction industry, and the rest into heavy highway or civil construction.
“The typical entry level positions are assistant project engineers, assistant superintendents and estimators. We’ve had people go on to own their own business and to work their way up to chief projects engineers and heads of companies,” he said.