by Brianna Rae
The Madison College Construction and Remodeling (MCC&R) program has been around for over 20 years and has gained the respect of local employers as having excellent curriculum that produces excellent employees. Recently, the program is seeing more and more students of color and women in its classrooms.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 8.9 percent of constructions workers in 2015 were women; only 5.9 percent were African-American, 1.8 percent were Asian, and 27.3 percent were Latino. Considering the construction industry’s history of being a field dominated by white men, the increasing diversity in Madison College’s program is exciting news.
In today’s economy, there are limited options for decent, secure, and well-paid employment. Academia and office work isn’t the path for everyone, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, the MCC&R Program offers alternative path to gainful employment that allows for hands-on work, almost guaranteed job placement, and great pay. (And a chance to build an office, not sit inside of one.)
What is the Construction & Remodeling Program?
Beginning each August, this nine-month program prepares students for a career in residential or commercial construction and remodeling. Students learn all phases of home construction, including estimating materials, understanding building codes, and maintaining tools and equipment.
The program provides a pathway to careers such as a rough/ finish carpenter, a remodeler, a product sales representative, or an estimator. With additional education or experience in the field, graduates may also become master carpenters, supervisors, teachers, or inspectors.
Each year, the students develop their tool use skills through individual and team projects that include sheds, Habitat for Humanity homes, and kitchen cabinets and remodels. This year, the program is collaborating with the Garver Feed Mill to build 50 micro-units for their lodging village that demonstrate the future of sustainable and innovative construction.
Serving All Types of Needs
The intensely hands-on coursework allows students who have a hard time with the grind of traditional schooling the chance to succeed in a different way. Sai Thao, a current student, didn’t have any experience in the field, but found the program after he tried college for a year.
“I didn’t like being indoors and school wasn’t really for me. I like to work with my hands and be outside. I also want to make money and be other to travel to other places and be able to get a job,” he said.
Another student, Marcus Patterson, expressed a similar sentiment. “I started out in college in liberal arts and had ten credits left, but never finished. It just wasn’t for me. This was a great switch. It’s so much more hands-on and the teachers are so much more involved.”
But it’s not just for college-aged students who are looking for an alternative to traditional schooling, but in fact is a great option for anyone looking for a change or to further their own personal skill set.
Monroe Thompson, a current student in the program, was looking for a life change. “I had been doing carpentry work for the majority of my life and had a rough past and trouble with the law. I’m working on changing my life. I wanted to do something positive with my time,” he said.
Another student, Garett Anderson, had no background in construction, but instead was involved in real estate finance. “I was looking for a career change. It’s a really transferable skill. This program gives us value to any employer. We’ll be immediately qualified for the even the lowest rung of work, but we’ll also be seriously qualified to begin advanced positions.”
In addition to the coursework that will provide skills for employment, the program also offers certifications that increase employability and value upon graduation. Students have the opportunity to earn their Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification and their Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license, a requirement for contractors working in Wisconsin.
Student Naveen Froemming had already had experience in construction, but joined the program to hone his skills and receive these beneficial certifications.
“The students get qualifications and certifications that set them up to be ahead of the rest,” said Jennifer Voichick, Lab & Outreach Specialist for the Program.
“We’re trying to get more women and people of color into the program, and it’s really amazing already how diverse of classes we have. Our instructors for this class are about 90 percent women, actually. The people of color in the class may graduate to be the only people of color on their work site, and they’ll be pioneers in opening the field,” she continued.
Opportunities for Economic Development
The average yearly entry-level pay in construction and remodeling is $38,000. Earning potential can reach $50,000 or more in three to five years. In addition, “We have a relationship with the unions so that when some of these people decide to go into the apprenticeship program, they qualify at their second year, so they’ll be one tier higher in terms of their wage,” said Voichick.
Plus, taking a program like this through Madison College as opposed to other universities can help students save a lot of money. “The teaching is just as good, if not better, because it’s so much more intimate, and you save so much more money,” said Patterson. “A lot of my friends go to the university and will come out of school with thousands of dollars in debt, and at the same time, I’ll be making thousands of dollars through my line of work,” said Thao.
Starting in a program like this can also set people up not only for a lifelong career, but offer opportunities for entrepreneurship and the chance to own your own business. “Sometimes I’ll call employers and they’ll say that they took this program a long time ago, and this is where they got started. People are really proud to have been part of it,” said Voichick.
“I like the program, it offers a career path, not just a job. I want to one day own my own business,” said Monroe Thompson.
“I’m looking more into commercial carpentry and want to be the man in charge some day. As a minority, if you want to own your own business, in any field, why would you not take a great program like this? You’re already going to have to do more than a white person to advance yourself, so it’s a good idea to try to get one step ahead,” said Thao.
The MCC&R Program also offers night classes three nights a week from 5:30 – 8:30 pm for those who have daytime commitments. This allows students to hold a job while also working towards a different career path. The next night class program begins on February 8, and there are still openings. Bridge classes start in February to help prepare students for the coursework they’ll experience in the program. Review Math, English, and computer skills before beginning your first college course. Also, Madison College offers financial aid and scholarships to reduce the financial burden on students.
On April 7 from 3 – 6pm is Madison College’s Big Step Job Fair that will welcome anyone interested in getting into the trades. There will be residential and commercial companies there looking to hire employees. Plus, there will be non profits and Madison College offering options for construction training programs.
The MCC&R Program are selling the sheds (featured on page five) that they’re making. The sheds are 9 x 7 and $1,700 each with delivery included. They are vinyl-sided and feature a window with a 5 ft door.