Western Carolina launches N.C. Construction Career Academy

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University’s construction management program, one of the fastest growing academic programs at the university, is launching a new Construction Career Academy designed to prepare N.C. high school students for careers in the construction industry.

The academy will be a collaboration between Western, several school systems across North Carolina, and the construction industry. Western recently hosted a North Carolina Construction Career Academy meeting in Asheville, where the new initiative was discussed. Representatives from school systems in Buncombe, Mecklenburg, Durham and Forsyth attended the meeting to discuss participation in the academy.

The program allows 9th-grade students to enter the Construction Career Academy for their four years of high school. During that period, local construction companies provide mentorship and summer employment to the students and the high schools participating in the academy.

While in high school, participating students must complete a college preparatory program, which will allow them to enter into a higher education construction management or civil program. At the same time, students will take vocational classes in a trade, such as carpentry or masonry. The classes will be taught out of the National Construction Center for Education and Research accredited program for crafts using the organization’s guidelines and text for each level in a trade.

Once the students graduate from high school, they will already be nationally certified in a trade, have construction industry experience, and be able to enter into a construction management or civil program.

“The students benefit by having marketable skills upon high school graduation that are nationally recognized. They can go directly to work at a high-paying job or they can use their skill to make money while completing their degree,” said Bradford Simms, director of Western’s construction management program.

This new initiative is patterned after a highly successful program in Tennessee led by Charles Parker, director of the program for East Tennessee State University. Parker gave a presentation of the Tennessee program and discussed the benefits of implementing a Construction Career Academy at various North Carolina school districts.

“Kids 16 years of age will actually gain field experience,” said Parker. “You’ve got high school students that can already customize their career opportunities.”

Also in attendance at the Asheville meeting were representatives of the Carolinas Associated General Contractors and local construction companies that plan to participate in the academy.

Construction management is a professional service that applies effective management techniques to the planning, design and construction of a project from beginning to end for the purpose of controlling time, cost and quality. New graduates in the field can expect entry-level salaries in the $35,000 to $45,000 range, with nearly 100 percent job placement, said Sims.

For more information on the N.C. Construction Career Academy or the construction management program at Western, contact Sims at (828) 227-2175.