K-State Salina program helps students walk into construction supervisor jobs post graduation
By Michelle Hall
Construction is a field many young students find appealing, said Andy Rietcheck, a professor at Kansas State University at Salina. And what could be more appealing to those students than jumping right into a supervising position at a construction site after graduation?
A new two-year program at the school is making just that possible. The associate degree in construction engineering technology combines management skills with the knowledge of construction methods and procedures, site surveys and construction layouts, interpreting construction drawings and specifications and building assembly. When creating the program more than a year ago, Rietcheck said they asked those on the job what skills these students should have. One that was echoed by many construction supervisors: a working knowledge of Spanish to be able to communicate with the growing number of Spanish-speaking employees.
So students in the program also have to take a conversational Spanish class developed specifically for construction engineering technology students. The requirement for the specialized conversational Spanish class is something that no other program like it requires, Rietcheck said.
Salina's is also the only associate degree of its kind in the state, said Rietcheck, an assistant professor of civil engineering technology.
"We think it will become popular," he said. "There is a large demand in the industry for entry-level supervisors. The desire from contractors is there for this program.
"It's important because there's no other program like it in the state." The Association of General Contractors and the Kansas Contractors Association have expressed support for the program, Rietcheck added.
Sophomore Matt Markle, Salina, said the program interested him because it offered a broad knowledge of the construction industry. His father works as a specialty contractor dealing with pre-cast concrete panels, and Markle has worked for him previously but said he has little experience with other aspects of the construction field.
"I was also interested in the program because the classes were small and there seemed to be an abundance of hands-on learning," he said. "I like the fact that I am known as a person with my instructors and not just a name and a number." When Markle graduates next fall, he plans to head to Manhattan to work toward a bachelor's degree in the construction science and management program.
The K-State at Salina program addresses a range of construction projects, from light residential to heavy industrial. Most students enrolled in the program have some experience working at a construction site, Rietcheck added.
"Construction is a very appealing field to young students," he said. "But they want something that can jump-start their careers in the field."
Junior Russell Knox, Salina, has worked in construction since 1994, in everything from framing houses to installing underground sprinkler systems to serving as a supplemental inspector. Knox, who will graduate with his degree in construction engineering technology in December, said the program interested him because he wanted to learn about all different aspects of construction, from roads and bridges to buildings.
"I also liked that it takes the management aspect and teaches us that," Knox said. "It is another side of construction that I had not really been exposed to." He will go to work for a construction company based in Dallas, Texas, after graduation. Knox interned with the company this past summer.