Since the recession of 2008, the number of students choosing to major in construction management at MSOE and other universities has declined. At the same time, the construction industry is facing a shortage of workers—including construction managers, project managers, engineers, etc. Construction managers are in great demand, as evidenced by the 100% placement rate for MSOE’s 2014-15 construction management graduates who enjoyed an average starting salary of $54,760.

To introduce high school students to the industry, MSOE partnered with the School District of New Berlin, Gilbane, Mortensen and Kiewit construction companies to bring 160 students to campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 11-12 for the first Future Builders program.

They heard from industry reps and MSOE faculty, toured the Northwestern Mutual Tower project site, and returned to campus for a hands-on activity with MSOE students modeling a construction management project. Their teachers participated as well, so they can replicate the activity in their classrooms.

The students were challenged to design something that produces energy. They used candy as their currency to purchase construction materials (popsicle sticks, modeling clay, paper plates, etc.) and resources for their project. Each student assumed a role on the team: procurement manager; business manager; designer; safety manager, etc.). “OSHA” inspectors were present on the simulated jobs and real-life situations such as weather and resource limitations affected the teams’ abilities to complete their project on-time and on-budget.

According to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC):

  • 70 percent of firms report they are having a hard time finding qualified workers, including salaried and craft professionals
  • 69 percent of respondents predict that labor conditions will remain as tight, or get worse, during the next 12 months

AGC’s Worker Shortage Survey Analysis shows:

  • 38 percent reported having a hard time filling salaried field positions and 33 percent with salaried office positions
  • The five toughest-to-fill salaried jobs are project managers/supervisors, estimating personnel, engineers, building information modeling (BIM) personnel and quality control personnel

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