September, 2022, 1-2:20 p.m.
Workforce Careers Center, Room W2113
Nancy Sweet, Chris Edmonds
Members in Attendance
- O'Shea Builders: Mike O'Shea, President, firstname.lastname@example.org; Tess Fyalka, Director of Employee Development & Engagement, email@example.com
- E.L. Pruitt: Courtney Cosby, Chief Operating Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
- A&R Mechanical contractor: Bill Walter President, email@example.com
- B&B Electric: Tim Brinkman, Executive VP, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mid-Illinois Companies: Bobby Taylor, BTaylor@mic123.com
- Josh Collins, Director of Business Relations
- Welcome and introductions
- Tour of clasrooms/labs
- State of program
- Engaging industry and creating partnerships
- Additional feedback
1. Welcome and introductions
Nancy and Chris welcomed everyone as they entered. The group introduced themselves.
2. Tour of classrooms/labs
Nancy and Chris took them on a tour of the WFCC classrooms and labs that the BDM program uses. Everyone made their way upstairs where the remainder of the meeting occurred.
3. State of program
Nancy gave the construction advisory committee an overview of the state of the Construction Occupations Program. She emphasized that Covid-19 hindered things somewhat and that there have been a lot of changes and turnover in the program. One of the biggest changes is that Chris Edmonds was brought on as a full-time program director/instructor this summer. He had formerly been an adjunct instructor for several years. The BDM program has a capacity of 20 students; eighteen students started this fall (currently seventeen). The students are in the certificate program but can stay and do an AAS if they choose. Classes are currently offered in the afternoon and evening due to the difficulty of getting adjunct faculty who are able to teach during the day. In Fall ’23 the program will double in size (max 40) with a full day cohort and a full night cohort. The BDM program partners with Taylorville High School; they have a great facility and program particularly for residential construction. Our goal is to expand our program into a more authentic real-world experience for our students. We value our partnership with and feedback from this advisory committee.
Chris updated the advisory committee about the current curriculum and posed questions for the committee to consider and weigh in on. He consulted Parkland Community College’s program and the carpenters’ union in thinking about the design of the program. He made the point that the program needs to implement more of a focus on commercial construction, management/leadership, and current software, among other things. It takes a year to implement curricular changes. He emphasized that he wants to lean on industry to contribute with people who want to teach in our program. LLCC is interested in updating the program to meet industry needs. Chris invited the group to share company and industry needs. Nancy commented that we are exploring internships as well as programs that will assist people in the field (e.g. journeymen) who want to transition to management positions. She also informed the group that we have workforce-based general education classes like technical math and writing, but that these classes are non-transferable to four-year colleges/universities. We are working toward transferability of these courses.
A group member requested a copy of the curriculum. Nancy responded that she would email everyone the current curriculum for their review.
5. Engaging industry and creating partnerships
The advisory committee then proceeded to ask questions and offer opinions and industry insights.
Committee members discussed the importance of tracking program graduates emphasizing that testimonials are effective for recruiting and show that people can get jobs.
It was agreed that the type of general overview program that we offer is needed. It is important to prepare students to enter the workforce then allow companies to do further training. It is good for students to get a broad, foundational knowledge.
It was suggested that perhaps a two-pathway program is needed. A tech pathway and a trades pathway. There was a lengthy discussion about virtual design and construction and the need for students to learn to read blueprints, complex systems, diagrams, and other construction documents. If students gain a deep understanding in this area, it opens a lot of job opportunities. Students don’t understand the opportunities there are in the technical side of construction. Reading construction documents and blueprints, scanning, virtual design, fabrication are all areas that students need to understand because there is a high demand in this area. Currently employers and unions are taking employees from the field (often some of their best foremen) and training them to do the tech. The tech future in construction is in digital twins; creating virtual models and digital environments of existing structures so that buildings aren’t outdated before they’re completed. It was recommended that we ask businesses that are building large structures to share their models so that students can learn from these. Students not only need to comprehend construction documents (civil drawing, plumbing, electric, drainage, structure, brick) for smaller buildings but also for large, complicated buildings. They need to be able to do stats while doing the structure, while looking at digital components, blueprints, etc. It was noted that the Masonry Institute of America is a fantastic organization with which to partner.
Chris interjected that he has been thinking about having a higher level blueprint class where newer technologies could be introduced. Our current class focuses on print (residential and commercial) and the blueprints are from textbooks. A committee member commented that blueprints in textbooks are never right. Adjunct instructors are encouraged to bring real-world items and examples into the classroom. The committee members recommended that we no longer teach AutoCAD but that we mimic what is currently happening in construction. They recommended we look into Autodesk Revit, building information modeling software. It produces very consistent results. Unions/companies also use Bluebeam software. Several agreed that students need to understand both paper blueprints and current software programs.
It is important to have a trades pathway as well. Building maintenance is needed along with the initial building of structures. Unions are looking for students who have skills and are interested in working with them. There is current need for Construction Wiremen to work in solar fields. It was suggested that we create relationships with unions and try to work with them as pipelines to get students. Oftentimes union applicants are not qualified to join the union even at an entry level. The unions (or other companies) could have their applicants fill out a form giving permission to share their information with LLCC. That way we would have a pipeline of students who are already interested in the field who just need to learn some basics before applying to enter the workforce. It would be good to train students to the tests that they need to take for the different certification areas.
A committee member suggested that our program focus on commercial construction rather than residential because commercial is more complicated. There is also more money in commercial trades than residential. It would take approximately a year for us to build a commercial program because it needs to be collaborative and to get LLCC approvals and ICCB approval. For a program that would start in Fall 2024, we would need to have everything in place by April 2022.
Chris explored the idea of recruiting people from industry to teach. The committee agreed that it will be very hard to recruit people. They recommended asking people to come in a couple of nights and focus on their area of expertise. Several people could come in for short periods of time. This would be easier to accomplish than asking someone to come teach for eight weeks or a semester.
The advisory committee agreed that internships should be a part of our programs. Perhaps there could be an entry level internship and a second year internship. We would have to recognize that smaller operations don’t have the same resources that larger companies do. Perhaps students could do two week rotations during their internship so they could have a broader spectrum of experiences. Businesses need help but don’t necessarily have the time to train only. They need to get something for their investment. A different internship model would need to be developed for students who wanted to go into a union. It would be difficult for students to do a union internship because of the way unions are structured. It would be helpful to create an incentive in unions to get students involved. Direct entry from the program into unions will be explored. Unions typically prefer to train their own way. Nancy and Chris will come up with a list of things that would need to be covered in an internship and then create the best way to conduct the internship. It was noted that if unions know that employers are contacting LLCC asking for graduates that this might motivate them to want a partnership.
The committee suggested that a construction management program/certificate be considered especially from a professional development standpoint. Consensus was that a degree is less important than a series of appropriate certifications, particularly for entry level positions. They affirmed the current approach to technical writing and public speaking and thought it was good that these skills are being layered throughout the curriculum. Employability skills are good to emphasize.
The meeting came to a conclusion as next steps were discussed. Nancy and Chris will develop curriculum based on this advisory feedback and research then bring the advisory committee back together or email the information and request feedback. Josh suggested that it would be helpful to get a larger group together (unions, residential, etc.) get feedback, then submit in April. Nancy will email the new curricular proposals to the advisory committee by December 1st so that feedback can be implemented prior to the April deadline for curricular changes.
Nancy emphasized that this advisory committee plays an integral part in the curricular process. The committee’s voice is exceptionally important. Advisory committees typically meet two times a year. Staying close to industry is a priority. Nancy asked the committee to consider inviting others in their company to attend meetings as well. Industry input is important, but she doesn’t want to take advantage of peoples’ time and generosity. Nancy extended her thanks, added some clarifications, made an announcement about the upcoming Career Expo, asked for any further feedback, and concluded the meeting.
5. Additional feedback
The committee agreed that having an in-person discussion like this was more beneficial than only submitting thoughts and reflections via email. They gave affirmations that Nancy and Chris are doing a good job and are on the right track.
- Nancy will email current curriculum around to group. Assigned to Nancy and due Sept. 16, 2022.
- Nancy will email proposed curricular changes to group. Assigned to Nancy and due Dec. 1, 2022.