A Glimpse of Opportunity


A Glimpse of Opportunity

Thirty-five students and nine instructors from Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College (MCC) visited BCMC this year and got a taste of the many opportunities the structural building components industry has to offer.

MCC students at BCMC 2017

“I’m not sure who was more excited – students or instructors,” remarked Zach Pechacek on behalf of the MCC contingent. “None of us knew how much this industry entailed.”

As MCC’s SkillsUSA director and industry coordinator of construction education, Pechacek is always on the lookout for ways students can gain hands-on experience and learn about opportunities available to them in all areas of the construction industry. “A recent multi-million-dollar investment in construction education has made MCC a go-to place for trades programs,” he explained, which include architecture and civil engineering, construction, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, welding and more. “Our programs are designed to provide students with real-world experience,” he said, but the trip to BCMC was “an eye-opener” and a very different experience than a visit to “your typical construction site.”

After a brief overview of the industry presented by the SBCA Emerging Leaders Committee, the visitors broke into four groups, each led by a component manufacturer, and rotated between plate supplier software demonstrations and various exhibits throughout the show floor.

Shawn Overholtzer from Simpson Strong-Tie encouraged the students to look into careers in the industry and emphasized how software is driving the future. “There is so much room for innovation and new talent,” Overholtzer remarked.

“What impressed me is the attention the students paid to the various exhibitors as they made their way around the show floor,” observed Mike Noonan, vice president of marketing at Cascade Mfg Co in Cascade, Iowa. “We and the exhibitors made a point of explaining to the students that there are career opportunities in welding, computer programming and project management in the industry. I don’t think the students realized this before, and it seemed to pique their interest. We wanted to impress upon the students that a four-
year degree is not required to make a good living in this industry.”

Simran Nijjar, an associate engineer at California TrusFrame in Perris, California, also noticed that the students really enjoyed speaking to vendors and asking questions. “The students loved walking around and seeing the machines in action,” he said, and they were “getting some really good advice.”

“What struck me the most was the excitement of the students when they saw the automation in our booth,” reported Michael Klein of MiTek. “They were interested in the fact that each piece of equipment was speaking to the other pieces of equipment on the floor.”

Liz Lisiecki at Alpine agreed. “When our saws started to move and cut, we had everyone’s attention,” she said. “When they learned about the speed, the complexity of the movements and the price of a machine, you could see the amazement in their faces.”

“It was good to show the next generation a glimpse of what our industry has to offer,” said Larry Northway, production manager at Engineered Building Design in Washington, Iowa.

“Exposure like this is a good thing,” echoed Pechacek. Students don’t often think about the whole process in detail until they see it firsthand. This event is just the beginning of an important relationship between MCC and CMs in the greater Omaha area. Pechacek said he came away with some interesting ideas to enhance his students’ Capstone project – a house that is built in three pieces inside the MCC construction education lab and then moved to the jobsite. Thanks to an invitation from a local manufacturer, “this year may be the first time our students can be involved in the design and production of the trusses used in their house,” he said. Stay tuned!

About the Author: Mindy Caldwell has been with SBC Magazine since 1999. While she’s spent the majority of her tenure working on how the magazine looks, she is excited about the opportunity to contribute to what it says.

Attracting people to the industry is one of the biggest challenges facing component manufacturers across the country. To help, the SBCA Emerging Leaders Committee worked with staff to create a recruiting video highlighting the many reasons why it’s great to work in the structural building component and framing industries. Embed the video on your website or in your training and recruitment materials. Find it and additional workforce development resources at sbcindustry.com/wfd.