In an ever-changing economy, people who have recently lost their jobs may need to take a serious look at switching careers by quickly gaining the skills necessary for a good-paying job in the trades. At Houston Community College, for example, their Jumpstart program offers a chance to gain a certification in just four months. That represents a serious opportunity for those who find themselves without work and those just starting out in life who want a shot at a rewarding career.
Kris Asper, Director of the Center of Excellence for Construction at HCC, said a colleague recently told him “community college has become the new graduate school.” Many students seeking a certification already possess a four-year degree and have decided to try a different path to success, he said. One student at HCC, Asper said, has a degree from Houston Baptist University and enrolled at the community college because “she wanted to learn a skill.” It stems from a desire to make a better living for their families, Asper said.
The Construction Center of Excellence gives students a chance to quickly earn certificates and receive competency-based training. Associate degree programs are also available to support the growing need for electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, welders, industrial automation, pipefitting, stationary engineers, and general construction skills. The school provides training following “relevant industry skills standards and credentialing and supports customized training and partnership with regional employer organizations engaged in workforce development,” according to the school’s website.
In an interview with Construction Citizen, Asper pointed out that a recently unemployed person would be able to gain a certification in a new career before their jobless benefits expire. "Within 16 weeks you can get a certificate," Asper said. "That's excellent."
Asper said there's a three-college consortium of Houston Community College, San Jacinto College, and College of the Mainland all working together to offer a fast track for students. “If they come for 16 weeks, they can get a NCCER Level 1 certification,” he said. “If they come for another 16 weeks, they can get a NCCER Level 2.”
The Construction Technology program, Asper said, is set up to develop qualified personnel for employment in the industry or to enhance the workplace skills of those already employed in construction so that they can advance their careers.
Job opportunities include management and supervisory positions in construction of residential and commercial buildings and other related industries, Asper said.
Students who complete the program will know safety rules and regulations, be able to use hand and power tools and measuring instruments, interpret and decode information found in blueprints, specifications, and other construction-related documents. They'll also be able to use computers and software to access, estimate, coordinate, and schedule construction projects.
You can view some of our conversation with Asper below.