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K-State construction management program creates the job site's leaders

By Erinn Barcomb-Peterson

 

When people think about construction, they usually think of someone wearing a tool belt and working outside, said David Fritchen, head of the architectural engineering and construction science department at Kansas State University's College of Engineering.

"Our program takes them from the tool belt to the leadership positions in the company," Fritchen said.

Since 1965, K-State's construction science program has prepared graduates to manage the resources essential to construction: materials, equipment, money and time.

"And how well you manage those resources determines the outcome and profitability of the project," Fritchen said.

K-State's bachelor degree in construction science and management has students taking courses like Strength of Materials, Theory of Structures and Heat and Air Conditioning. Although construction managers don't need to know the ins and outs of specific trades like welding, plumbing, carpentry or electrical, they do need to understand the work performed by these trades and the sequence of work involved with the construction process.

"They don't have to know individually how to do it, but they need to know what has to be done — what resources need to be committed to the project to perform this work," Fritchen said.

The department encourages prospective students to focus on math and science in high school, Fritchen said. But once in K-State's program, students also will be taking public speaking and writing classes.

"Communication is a big part of our industry," Fritchen said. "You're communicating by the construction specifications and by two-dimensional drawings. You're also communicating by phone and e-mail. We're going a lot more high tech in our industry. The better communicator you are, the smoother your project will go."

Fritchen said K-State has about 800 students between the architectural engineering and construction management programs. About 5 percent of the construction management students are women, which is about the average in programs nationwide, he said.

K-State's program, the fifth-largest in the country, doesn't advertise for new students but rather relies on word-of-mouth.

"Most of the referrals we get are prospective students who have visited with an architect, engineer or contractor who recommended K-State," Fritchen said. "Our program is considered by the industry to be one of the top 10 in the nation."

The program gets students who come to K-State specifically to take it, as well as those who make the move to construction management from other disciplines like architecture and engineering.

With construction making up about 8 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and the country's construction industry projected work-in-place to total $1.2 trillion in 2006, students should find it an appealing field, Fritchen said.

For more than a decade K-State has placed 100 percent of its construction science graduates in career-related positions, Fritchen said. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average age of workers in the construction industry is 47. The average salary expected for December 2005 graduates is $46,000 a year, Fritchen said.

"There's a whole generation about to retire and the pay is excellent," Fritchen said. "There's tremendous opportunity in the engineering and construction industry and it is an exciting career."

More information on the program is available at http://www.k-state.edu/are-cns/

 

Winter 2005