Construction training continues to thrive in Texas
Students put their code knowledge and construction skills to the test
In April of 2018, I had my first opportunity to attend a SkillsUSA TeamWorks state competition in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I was completely blown away. The construction industry has a ton of talent coming down the pike, and these students are just in high school.
For those you unfamiliar with SkillsUSA, it’s a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure that America has a skilled workforce by providing educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education in the nation’s classrooms. The SkillsUSA TeamWorks is a SkillsUSA competition designed to evaluate team preparation for employment and to recognize outstanding students for excellence and professionalism in the field of residential carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electricity and teamwork skills. Teams of four students are required to build a construction project, over three days, that demonstrates their ability to work together as a team.
Bluebonnet ICC Immediate Past President Mike Beard, former Code Council High School Technical Training Program Coordinator Jim Ellwood and I were invited to participate in this event. Mike was a judge in the competition, while Jim and I rubbed elbows with the students during breaks in the competition and spoke with their instructors about the Code Council’s College and High School Technical Training Programs, hoping to encourage them to add this code program to their curriculum.
In April of 2019, I was again given the opportunity to participate in a SkillsUSA TeamWorks competition, but this time as a judge. To say I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the team of judges would be an understatement. I look forward to getting a chance to go back again. It is great to see these students compete and put their skills to the test … their hands-on skills with the tools of the trade are impressive enough but watching them also apply their code knowledge to the build is exciting.
Building a tradition of winning
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco, Texas, is practicing consistency by winning contests with hard hats and hammers. The college has won state championships in SkillsUSA TeamWorks and competed at the national level representing Texas every year since 2013. The achievements come not only with patience and dedication from students but also from the faculty that help them.
The SkillsUSA TeamWorks group from TSTC took second in the nation again during a June competition in Louisville, Ky. This follows the group taking second last year for the first time ever in this competition. One factor in TSTC’s success has been offering students the opportunity to earn certification from the Code Council’s Technical Training Program using the International Residential Code (IRC). The students take a Building Codes and Inspections course to work toward the certification. Texas State Technical College is the first college in Texas to award Code Council certification. Having students learn about the IRC enables them to find answers to problems themselves. Judges at the national SkillsUSA contest not only look at building techniques but also how well students know building codes.
Recent TSTC graduate Andres Zapata competed on both silver medal teams while students Jacob Dawson, Antonio Hernandez and Leonardo Mata took part for the first time on the college level. Recent TSTC graduate Cody Scheffe won a silver medal in carpentry; this is the second year he competed. SkillsUSA allows participants to represent their campuses for up to six months after graduation. The TSTC team qualified for the national conference by winning the SkillsUSA Texas conference in April. More than 6,400 students from Alaska to Puerto Rico competed at the conference, with more than 1,100 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded.
Bluebonnet Chapter empowers the next generation
Besides its involvement with the Code Council’s High School Technical Training Program and SkillsUSA TeamWorks, the Bluebonnet Chapter of ICC provides training opportunities for its members. Anyone in the code, construction or trade-related fields can earn their continuing education units and their certification renewals. The Bluebonnet Chapter is a Preferred Provider through the Code Council, which allows it to offer more class options for its members, which range from code enforcement, building inspections, fire, energy, mechanical, plumbing and electrical. Part of the money raised from this training goes towards scholarships to two of our colleges in central Texas that offer building trades classes – Texas State Technical Institute in Waco and Central Texas College in Killeen.
Another part of the proceeds goes towards scholarships for Bluebonnet Chapter members to attend training classes offered at the Building Performance Institute Inc., the annual meeting of the Building Officials Association of Texas (BOAT), and disaster response training through BOAT, among other opportunities. These funds, along with scholarship opportunities offered through the Code Council and BOAT, provide Bluebonnet Chapter members with options to help supplement any funds they may get through their respective cities. The Bluebonnet Chapter is proud to be able to participate with these students and instructors at the high school and college level, and to provide them with additional marketability through their acquired code knowledge and trade skills.
Moving the Technical Training Program forward in Corpus Christi
One of the privileges and opportunities I have been given is to speak about the Code Council’s High School Technical Training Program at conferences for the Texas Industrial Vocational Association (TIVA), including this year’s summer conference in Corpus Christi. I get to meet high school instructors that are either teaching, or planning on teaching, construction trades at their respective schools.
I have presented the High School Technical Training Program three times now at TIVA conferences, with three presenters that helped me discuss the different aspects of this amazing, forward-thinking program — from how to get started and funding options to how to teach the course. We emphasize the benefits of this curriculum to the high school students and their instructors.
The first two times I presented, former TSTC Building Construction Trades Instructor Michael Carrillo, Code Council Board Director Shirley Ellis and Waco High School CTE Director Donna McKetthan were with me in Waco, Texas. This year, I once again facilitated the session with the help of Michael Carrillo, who is now the current building trades instructor at Belton High School in Belton, Texas. Michael is also the first instructor in Texas to adopt the High School Technical Training Program at the college level for the TSTC—Waco Building Construction Trades program. Additionally, Madison Dominescy and Ron Piester from the Code Council, who have taken over the oversight of the College and High School Technical Training Programs from Jim Ellwood, were on hand to help provide instructors with an overview of the program and options for funding this very inexpensive program should schools need funding assistance.
The exciting thing about the TIVA conference is that we are expanding our presentation from a general overview of the College and High School Technical Training Programs towards preparing instructors to teach from the IRC Study Companion and giving them an exam so that they can see what the students experience as they begin the program. Michael, Ron, Madison and I also had a debriefing session afterward to discuss how the program could go forward. We hope to develop a “Training the Trainer” method to help instructors incorporate the curriculum into their respective construction classes. Stay tuned!