Elder Workers Become VIPs

Staff | September 28, 2010

Employers are looking to "nontraditional" construction workers to ease the labor shortage.

It's a paradox: construction is one of the nation's highest growth industries — while throughout the Midwest, and the country, contractors are having trouble finding skilled, motivated employees. Sure, kids just getting out of high school, or college students on summer break, can still walk onto a site and handle simple labor. But there is a critical shortage of experienced workers or those willing to learn a trade before they fill out an application.

Tuition-Free VIP

Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) in southwest Missouri has created several construction trade programs at their main Springfield Campus, and at the Branson and Lebanon Education Centers. For those prospective "nontraditional" construction learners, there are Continuing Education and Workforce Development trainings available. One local option was developed to assist more mature students to learn the construction trade with very little financial commitment: the tuition-free Continuing Education VIP Program.

To qualify for the VIP Program the student must be 60 years of age or older and live in the OTC district. The area encompasses the Missouri school districts of Ash Grove, Clever, Everton, Fordland, Logan-Rogersville, Marshfield, Nixa, Ozark, Pleasant Hope, Republic, Springfield, Strafford, Walnut Grove, and Willard, which are in Christian, Greene, Dade, Polk, and Webster counties.

The program provides the tuition-free courses on a space available basis. The student only pays for lab and any miscellaneous fees, along with books and supplies. A first time application for the VIP Program must be made in person at the Non-Credit office on campus. After the VIP application has been made, the student may call the Non-Credit office the day before a class begins to inquire about the availability for VIPs. If there is space available in the class, at that time the VIP will be registered and will be required to pay any fees due. Some classes do not qualify for the VIP program. Learning takes place in classrooms and on field trips.

Industrial and Technical Institute

This program gives students many choices of courses that teach a variety of skills. In Contracting and Building, students will be exposed to all aspects of estimating, building terminology, the bid process, proposal writing, formulas, and all of the trades used in building construction, including an in-class practicum using real blueprints. This class is designed for individuals who are new to the field, including commercial and residential builders who want to learn about estimating entire projects.

Another class is designed for the concrete contractor who wants to learn and improve concrete estimating skills, including: estimating, form selection, admixture usage, placement methods, rebar takeoffs, and quick methods of estimating concrete.

A welding course presents the fundamentals of the welding process and then provides hands-on practice to allow students to develop essential welding skills. After covering the theory and practice of oxy fuel gas welding, cutting process shield metal-arc welding, and MIG welding, students can move onto an advanced class. This covers both theory and practice of oxy fuel gas welding, shield metal-arc welding, TIG and MIG welding, and plasma cutting.

Other mature learners may be interested in starting a home inspection service business. The discussions of the exterior and interior of a home, roofs, gutters, windows, doors, foundations, landscaping, attics, interior rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are valuable for inspectors and novice builders. Besides plumbing, electrical, heating, and air conditioning systems, the class addresses environmental concerns (radon, asbestos, lead, etc.).

How blueprints are structured and the conventions that are used in making them and reading them is the subject of another course. Those principles are then applied to detail drawings and assembly drawings of mechanical equipment, including the special features of blueprints in applications ranging from heat metal work through electrical and air conditioning work. There also a class on the basics of heating, ventilation and air conditioning components and operation.

Construction Readiness Program

A similar but unique option is the OTC Workforce Development Construction Readiness Program. This five-week program will provide training in introductory craft skills, resulting in a Construction Readiness Certificate from the college.

Students will be trained to develop the skills required to succeed in local, regional and national construction industries. Topics to be covered include: construction safety, construction math, hand and power tool usage, blueprint reading, rigging, basic communication skills, and basic employability skills. Upon completion students will be qualified for several construction positions: carpenter helper, carpenter apprentice, bricklayer apprentice, concrete apprentice, and tile setter.

This re-occurring program is an excellent opportunity for high earnings — successful students could earn a salary of $11 to $20 per hour within the first year. For more information, contact the OTC VIP Program at (417) 447-888, its Center for Workforce Development at (417) 447-8901 or visit http://www.otc.edu.