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In previous decades, high school graduates at the beginning of their career planning basically had two traditional paths: deciding on a college degree or entering an apprenticeship in the trades. Historically, both have delivered great results, but what if there was a way for people to have the best of both worlds? A promising career in the trades, with a high-quality bachelor’s degree too.

That’s the same thing in northwestern Indiana, now that construction trades organizations have aligned new options for their tradespeople with educational opportunities from Purdue University Northwest (PNW).

Four out of five Construction organizations report having difficulty finding qualified project supervisors. (Source: Fieldlens).

Project Leadership Degree Track

Several years ago, the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana (CAF) began working with PNW and Ivy Tech Community College to develop new ways to bring more construction-trained leaders into the regional workforce. The need for more qualified project supervisors is pronounced in the construction industry. These people are essential to the success of the project and are among the three hardest types of skilled workers to find, according to data from Fieldlens, a project management software company.

At the time this effort began, an associate degree pathway for apprentices already existed through Ivy Tech. People in nine different trades could earn an Associate of Applied Science degree while completing their apprenticeship. (Those nine trades would be carpenters, blacksmiths, millers, electricians, painters, plumbers, tinkers, tinkers, and masons.) Hundreds of people complete this associate’s degree each year, but there was no way for these graduates to seamlessly transition their credits to a new bachelor’s degree pathway. So that’s the main connection that the three partner organizations focused on first.

Together, the trio formed the new “Project Leadership” degree track, in which associate graduates of Ivy Tech programming could seamlessly transition into PNW education building specific skills to become project supervisors. Classes from PNW’s Organizational Leadership and Supervision (OLS) and Construction Engineering Technology and Management (CEMT) programs have been combined to provide important construction leadership and management skills needed by supervisors in today’s industry.

When they transition from Ivy Tech to PNW, students will take about 40% of the total credits needed to earn their bachelor’s degree. Most students will complete their bachelor’s degree in approximately 2.5 years. Courses are structured to allow students to work construction during the day and learn in the afternoons/evenings.

“Now that the Leadership Project is in place, it’s going to be a huge thing for the Northwest Indiana construction industry. Business organizations now have a different path to develop more leaders in the field, while giving them real-world on-the-job experience on the job,” said Kevin Comerford, CAF’s director of professional development. “In the very near future, a substantial percentage of today’s project supervisors will be of retirement age. That is why it is so important that we start training the next generation of construction leaders immediately.”

“PNW, Ivy Tech, CAF, and industry have worked together to create a curriculum that is flexible and accessible to industry workers. The courses, for the most part, are created specifically for the trades cohort. That means our instructors understand that the students in the class are hard-working people and will do everything they can to provide them with a great learning environment. We are very excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with all the different entities to create a path for people to advance their careers,” said Chandramouli V Chandramouli, PhD, PE, professor and chair of the Department of Organizational Leadership and Building Sciences. from PNW.

The best candidates

One of the best things about the new Project Leadership program is that tens of thousands of existing construction employees have already earned their associate’s degrees and would qualify for additional leadership training. Many also have years of experience in the field that would be valuable in a leadership role because the daily activities of a construction supervisor are becoming more complex. For example, supervisors must know how to develop site plans, order materials and equipment, control costs, and develop safety plans, all of which would be more effective with the additional workplace experience already in the workforce.

Fortunately, these workers can now level up their careers in a much more convenient and easier way than ever before. CAF says that one of the biggest current challenges is getting the word out to more workers so that they are aware of the new option.

That is part of the reason why CAF has launched a grant to both market and support further construction leadership credentials. Just a few months ago, CAF and the NWI Contractors Association launched a $10,000 scholarship to incentivize workers to pursue a bachelor’s degree and help offset costs. Depending on the number of applicants, some students may even receive funds that cover a full year of their college education.

great new option

Because Project Leadership’s new pathway builds on an already widespread academic foundation, it has created a very promising option for generating the kinds of skilled leaders needed in the Northwest Indiana construction industry. Workers will not have to start over; they will just have to continue their growth. And that could be one of the most viable ways to bring more skilled supervisors into regional construction companies.