A groundbreaking ceremony for the Howard College-San Angelo Construction Trades Center of Excellence was held on Oct. 5, 2017. Over the past 18 months, Michael Biggerstaff, past president of the Home Builders Association of San Angelo and chairman of the Texas Builders Foundation, and the Home Builders Association of San Angelo in partnership with the Texas Builders Foundation have worked with community leaders in San Angelo to raise over $600,000 for the new center which is now fully funded. Additionally, each of the 25 students in the first class that will begin in March 2018 will receive full scholarships to the eight-month program.
“Today was an extraordinary day for our community, our industry, the Texas Builders Foundation, our association and especially for the next generation of skilled tradesmen that will be created by the Howard College construction trades program,” said Biggerstaff who is also chairman of the Howard College Construction Trades Committee. Other Texas Builders Foundation Trustees who attended the ceremony were: State Representative Drew Darby, San Angelo; Chad Decker, San Angelo; Tommy Ford, Dallas; Sue Ann Pinger, Austin; and Steve Sorrells, Waco.
Texas and the nation are facing a critical shortage of skilled construction workers. Over the last 20 years, many high schools phased out vocational programs and encouraged students to focus more on obtaining a four-year college degree. Therefore, a generation of parents, students and school counselors have not been exposed to the building industry as a professional career choice. “Not every child that finishes high school goes on to college to get a formal education,” Biggerstaff said. “And the options for those kids are extremely limited today. What we’re trying to do is give them options to make a living wage. The construction trades will do that.”
The community college model is a good fit for trades certification programs. The 5,200 square-foot construction trades center will house labs with open indoor and outdoor space. Students who complete the nine-month course will receive a Certificate 1. Curriculum revolves around seven classes that include basic construction math, how to read a blueprint and building codes. The other five classes are hands-on in the lab.
A crowd of community leaders, including Mayor Brenda Gunter, Rep. Darby, Howard College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks and others took part in the ceremony. “It’s a grassroots effort, and there’s been amazing support from the community to have this program at Howard College,” said Jamie Rainey, the college’s workforce and community development officer. “To me that’s what a community college is all about – we’re about community.”
Since 2013, the Texas Association of Builders, its charitable arm the Texas Builders Foundation, and the 28 local home builders associations across the state have been working with independent school districts, technical and trade schools, and community colleges and universities to implement or enhance construction trades programs. The Howard College-San Angelo Construction Trades Center of Excellence is a success story that can serve as an example for other community partnerships.
“We love to partner with our communities and meet whatever the training needs are that our community is identifying, and this is definitely one,” Rainey said.