BY BRIAN HUSCHLE, EAST GRAND FORKS CAMPUS DEAN
A recent headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune draws attention to a fact that is long identified in our region: The construction trades need workers. Minnesota has the third lowest construction unemployment rate in the nation currently (at just 2.1%) and projects are delayed because it is hard to find skilled workers in the building trade fields.
“Everybody is looking for good help. The need is there,” states Betty McDonald, Executive Office of the Forx Builders Association, located in Grand Forks, ND. Based on the Department of Labor data, the need for skilled workers is especially noticeable, according to economist Bernie Markstein. (Star Trib Article.)
Northland Community and Technical College has five programs specific to the construction trades: architectural drafting, carpentry, construction electrician, construction plumbing, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Each one of these programs develops the high demand skills employers want in the field.
The faculty in the programs at Northland all bring real world experience to their classroom and labs. A prime example of this is our new carpentry program instructor, Chris Swenby. Swenby brings with him a wealth of real-world experience as he has worked in the trade in his family business, CJ Swenby Construction, of Fertile, Minnesota. In addition, be brings teaching experience to NCTC from working with two other carpentry programs. This combination of professional field work, business experience and classroom teaching is at the core of all of Northland’s building trades faculty.
Students in each of these professions gain valuable hands-on experience through a shared project house. In partnership with the Forx Builders Association, Northland students in the respective programs, draft, build, wire, plumb, and heat a house every year. In this context they apply their technical skills on a real life construction site. In addition, they all gain additional in depth experience in their respective programs through work in our extensive lab space.
While many businesses do offer on the job training, as noted in the recent Star Tribune article, the best paying jobs and career advancement goes to those with training and skills in the trade. Northland’s programs and faculty are ready to provide that training!