Derek Hamilton, Staff Writer
Utica College’s home city and neighboring municipalities including Rome and Marcy are preparing for some significant upgrades which will impact the demand of construction workers to complete the projects.
The coming Nexus Center in Downtown Utica, a multi-million dollar manufacturing plant in Marcy, new Loft apartments and new dorms at SUNY Polytechnic Institute are just a few of the projects that are expected to drive up local demand for construction workers.
In Utica, students and faculty alike have noticed the long process of construction projects on NY-49 and the slow installation of a roundabout on Oriskany Street. This scenario and the coming city upgrades raise questions about the number of students pursuing construction careers, and WKTV confirms that there is a shortage of construction workers.
Assistant Professor of Construction Management Audrey Cross raised the possibility that a relative number of students are pursuing construction positions, but demand is increasing.
“The construction industry is continuously growing and the amount of work we have is growing,” she said. “But, when you define construction workers you have the labors and special trades, then you have the managers, engineers, and architects.”
Cross also said that young people today are pursuing high-tech, sedentary careers in place of labor-intensive positions.
“So there is a big difference in that and the industry is growing,” Cross said. “In addition to engineers and architects there’s a huge need for those professionals, but those labors that are doing the hard work are lacking because of the way the world is going with new technology and I don’t think people actually want to do physical work anymore.”
Some factors involved in this trend may include a lack of awareness about the benefits that are available through this field such as pay rate, pension, health, and annuity. Others say the push for young people to seek out four-year degrees has caused less interest in labor and skilled professions.
Construction labor or skilled trade work is physically demanding and may also deter young people from such work. However, that was not the case for Griffin Candee, a sophomore in the construction management program, who said he has a passion for the field.
“My dad builds water tanks for a living,” he said. “One time I went with him over the weekend and I saw what he did and I just fell in love with what he was doing.”
Candee said this early experience led to his interest in the industry and his decision to join the Construction Management program at UC.
Cross is also an alum of the Construction Management program and said that all the students that graduated last year accepted a job before receiving their diploma.
“Every time we have a graduating student they already have a job before they even get out of here,” Cross said.
The UC website says that 85 percent of UC’s Construction Management grads become employed within three months of graduation and the typical starting salary for the students is $60,000. Cross said that number is low compared to the number of students who land jobs after graduation.
“I don’t know why the statistics on our website say we have an 85 percent job rate after graduation because I still think it is 100 percent in zero months,” Cross said.
Demand for UC’s construction management students is high.
“Employers are always coming to us and we’re running out of stock,” said Dr. David Dubbelde, professor of practice in construction management.
The construction management page on the UC website said the program “gives students the tools to succeed in one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing industries.”
Matthew McHarris, a junior in the Construction Management program, said that most of his family has pursued construction careers.
“I chose this major for the opportunities after college,” he said. “The program here is very competitive and it’s just not a typical college program; it’s a lot of hands-on learning which I really like.”
McHarris said the manual labor aspect of the career may scare people away.
“I think a lot of people feel like you are going to swinging a hammer every day,” he said. “I think it gets that aspect that it’s all manual labor or they don’t fit into the stereotype of a construction worker which it’s not a lot of that but it’s a lot more in the job trailer or offices doing planning and working in other ways.”
UC is currently the only college with a Construction Management program in the state that is ACCE (American Council for Construction Education) accredited.