Clark College program markets to construction companies

The 11-week Clark College Construction Program teaches basic industry training, trade math and more

Construction training
Courtesy of Clark College. Clark College – in partnership with WorkSource Vancouver – launched their Construction Training Program last year. The 2017 program was crammed into five weeks, but this year the program begins in March and continues for 11 weeks, ending in May.

When Francois Wevers, director of customized and contract training for Clark College Economic & Community Development, was first looking into offering a construction training program through Clark College, he and others talked with several construction companies who told him that they just couldn’t find skilled, properly trained workers.

“Construction companies have been saying they can’t find people,” Wevers said. “They’ve been saying that (a lot of the people they do find) lack basic industry skills. We’ve been hearing a lot about people coming out of school and they’re lacking in math. It’s hard to find people and when they do, they fail.”

After working to customize a training program that included professional edge, trade math and basic industry training, Clark College – in partnership with WorkSource Vancouver – launched their Construction Training Program last year. The 2017 program was crammed into five weeks, but this year the program begins in March and continues for 11 weeks, ending in May.

While Wevers said they are always trying to recruit workers to the program, the people they are marketing to the most right now are the construction companies. Participation of local construction companies is an important part of the program, as on-the-job training is part of it. Participating construction companies basically hire the student when they begin the training program and are able to provide that hands-on training in tandem with the other skills being taught in the program.

Currently, three Clark County construction companies are a part of Clark’s training program – Rotschy, Inc., Tapani Underground, Inc. and GRO Outdoor. However, Wevers said they would like to get a few more to participate.

“We are lacking in more construction companies, it’s been difficult to get more,” Wevers said. “We have heard from the ones that are participating that they have been very pleased with the program. They have told us that it brought them candidates that they may have not thought of before. We want the companies to know we are running the program during the same time each year (March-May).”

Wevers said they have been working with organizations like the Southwest Washington Contractors Association and others to try and market to other local construction companies. The cost per student to complete the training program is about $1,800, and construction companies can help by sponsoring the trainees that they will hire.

Wevers said last year’s program consisted of candidates who were mostly in the 25-to-35-year-old range, but they do also encourage students who are just out of high school to apply for the program. Candidates do have to be at least 18 years old to take part in the program. Last year, he said 12 candidates participated in the program, though they could take up to 25 at a time.

The 11-week (111 hours) training program includes instruction in interpersonal skill building; trade math; blueprint reading; basic power tools and safety; CPR/First Aid; OSHA 10 safety; forklift certification; flagging certification; basic GPS; and soils and erosion.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old by the end of the training or before they begin working in June; be able to pass a drug test; be available for training March 2018-May 2018; be available two afternoons/evenings per week and each Saturday for classes; and have reliable transportation to get to class and work. Candidates should be prepared to possibly start employment with a company as early as March 2018.

Wevers said that the instructors they have hired for this training program are a mix of some Clark College faculty and some non-Clark faculty. Most of the training classes are going to be held at either the Columbia Tech Center campus or the downtown campus, and Wevers said they generally don’t offer much of the training on the main Clark campus.

According to some statistics from the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative Sector Report on construction, construction employment is expected to return to pre-recession levels by 2022. Between 2014 and 2024, construction employment is expected to add 15,000 jobs for a growth rate of 25 percent, which is faster than the overall economy at 19 percent.

This year’s training will run from March 6-May 12, and training is Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-7 p.m., and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Anyone interested in participating in the Clark College Construction Program can contact Tina Cruz at (360) 992-2749 or via email at tcruz@clark.edu. Any construction companies interested in participating with the program can contact Francois Wevers at (360) 992-2466 or via email at fwevers@clark.edu.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.