Collin College Breaks Ground on The Construction Industry’s Future

By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association 

Craig Johnson had no idea who, if anyone, would turn up for Collin College’s first construction management course offerings. The newly hired instructor only had a few weeks to get the program up and running. Johnson expected around five students. He ended up with nearly 20.

These students enjoy a unique learning opportunity in the form of Collin College’s 340,000-square-foot technical campus, which recently broke ground in Allen. Once complete, the campus will include a 400-by-90-foot area exclusively dedicated to the construction trades.

Labs for plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and safety will be coupled with a 6,000-square-foot “build” lab, providing hands-on opportunities for students in all programs to work together on various projects. With a labor shortage hampering Dallas-Fort Worth’s construction industry to the tune of 25,000 to 35,000 missing workers, opportunities for graduates will be plentiful.

I recently met with these students while providing a guest lecture on the demands our fast-growing region is placing on the construction industry. I wish I was speaking to a stadium full of students who shared their interest. However, sharing an hour with them left me most excited about the quality of who is about to join our industry and optimistic that others will follow.

One of those students, Ashley Lake, entered the industry out of necessity. She’s now focused on finally reaching her goal of making it a career.

“I started working with my dad when I was 15, doing paint, concrete, drywall, flooring (tile and laminate), and many more odd jobs,” Lake said. “At first, my dad made me work, but eventually I developed a love for it. My goal is to get my degree and a job with a good company. I’ve had this goal in mind since I was 17.”

“Now, I’m 30 years old and a single mother of four. The road ahead is a long one for me. However, I am very dedicated and focused,” she added. Lake hopes to continue her education and obtain a bachelor’s degree while working as a construction manager.

Chelsie Moore also has roots in the industry. After growing up in Iowa, her father moved her family to Texas taking a job with Centex and later Pulte Homes. “I want to follow in my parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps,” Moore said. “I love creating something for someone else and having pride in what I do.”

Another student, Adriana Niblett, 24, moved to Dallas from Odessa three years ago.

“Where I came from, there’s nothing but oil and dirt for miles,” Niblett said. “When I came here, I immediately noticed the real estate. After becoming a top producer for an apartment locating service, I discovered that I was more curious about how they were built. I landed my first internship as a project engineer on a 20-story high rise in Uptown. Communication is my main game for the project and it helps that I love to talk! I put in a 12- to 14-hour day and it doesn’t feel like work. Thank you for speaking to our class. It left me even more excited about this industry.”

These young women and their classmates will play a major role in building the homes and offices for more than 3.5 million people who are expected to call Collin County home in 2050. In order to succeed at doing this, they need the mentorship of current industry leaders. If you would like to find out more about the Collin College program or engage as a guest lecturer, contact Craig Johnson at cjohnson@collin.edu.  

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