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Back to School, Back to the Basics

Written by Peter L. Mosca on Tuesday, 16 December 2008 6:00 pm
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The more you learn, the more you earn. Surveys have proven this to be true in the REALTOR world for a longtime and it appears that an Alabama university is bringing this axiom to builders. With a weakening construction job market, many industry professionals are heading back into the classroom as laid-off workers seek to retool their career skill sets ahead of a forecasted economy recovery in late 2009, according to Bill Hitchcock, Ph.D., director of the Master of Engineering Construction Management Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

"The industry is battered and suffering right now," Hitchcock said. "As credit has frozen, so has the work in the construction industry that relies on those funds, and unfortunately some jobs are being lost."

The recent construction job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are sobering.

More than 49,000 industry jobs were lost in October 2008 with the sector shedding close to 675,000 jobs since the industry's national employment peak in September 2006.

Dianne Gilmer, UAB's Construction Management Program Coordinator, has daily contact with current and prospective students. "With so many people out of jobs, enhanced skills and education could make the difference in securing a return to the job market or securing future career advancement as the country's economy improves," Gilmer said.

Hitchcock pointed to a Nov. 24 news conference conducted by President-Elect Barack Obama as evidence of an impending industry turn around. Obama pledged to create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. He indicated hundreds of thousands of those jobs are expected to be in the construction industry where laborers and their management teams will be put to work to repair and stabilize the country's infrastructure as well as build new facilities tied to the next generation of environmentally friendly energy-producing resources.

"There will be exciting and rewarding challenges for construction managers to build roads, supply lines and infrastructure connected to new energy," Hitchcock said. "Managers must be able to lead multidisciplinary teams to meet demanding time schedules and still stay within tight budgets and this requires a personal tool box replete with technical, organizational, personal and communications skill."

Hitchcock said UAB's Construction Management Program is creating those types of managers, offering uniquely flexible admission opportunities for those qualified applicants looking to enhance their resumes for future employment opportunities. The program is open to all construction industry workers regardless of their undergraduate degree training. There also is no graduate school entrance exam requirement, an obstacle that has traditionally prevented many returning to education, Hitchcock said.

Those interested in the program that routinely travel or otherwise cannot meet regularly for campus classes can take advantage of the opportunities offered by UAB as early as May 2009 when the Construction Management degree's first on-line distance learning class begins. Applications are still being accepted for the on-line course.

Some 68 students are currently enrolled in the 18-month on-campus program, ranging in ages from 25 to 55 and representing 38 different companies. For further information, please contact Dianne Gilmer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Whether the forecast for an economic turnaround in 2009 turns out to be true, or not, it is still sound advice for builders and associates to seek additional education and add skill sets during this downturn.

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