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CareerTech addresses shortage of skilled construction workers

CareerTech addresses shortage of skilled construction workers

Jarrod Parks is a construction superintendent for Crossland Construction in Tulsa.

When Jarrod Parks drives past a school or a grocery store in Tulsa, there’s a good chance he helped build it.

Parks said he gets great satisfaction from seeing his projects around town, including five area grocery stores he helped remodel.

“When somebody says, ‘Hey, that building over there is really nice,’ I can say, ‘Yeah, that was me,’” Parks said.

The 25-year-old construction superintendent for Crossland Construction Company is working on a $5.5 million renovation for Tulsa Public Schools. It’s a 10-classroom addition, and four of those classrooms are in a FEMA-rated tornado shelter.

Parks, who has always liked building things, said his early career goal was to become an architect. He enrolled in residential and commercial carpentry classes at Gordon Cooper Technology Center when he was a junior at Seminole High School. There, he quickly discovered he would rather build things with his hands than sit in front of a computer screen all day creating architectural designs.

Carpentry instructor Jodie Eiland said Parks had a great work ethic, and after he learned the basics of construction, Parks competed at the state and national level in SkillsUSA – a CareerTech student organization that prepares students for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations.

Gordon Cooper Construction Instructor Jodie Eiland
Gordon Cooper carpentry instructor Jodie Eiland

Eiland was the driving force behind Parks’ love of construction.

“He doesn’t just teach you how to do it, he teaches you how to fall in love with it,” Parks said.

After graduating from Seminole High and Gordon Cooper Tech, Parks enrolled at OSU-Okmulgee for a two-year construction degree.

Unlike most college grads, Parks didn’t have a stressful and lengthy job search after finishing the program. In fact, he graduated from college on a Friday, and started work full-time the following Monday.

“I’ve never looked for a job,” he said. “Crossland came to OSU-Okmulgee and interviewed us for their intern program, and I was one of three students selected. I’ve stuck with them ever since.”

His starting salary out of school was somewhere in the mid-$40s, but after five years with Crossland, Parks is making upwards of $70,000 plus perks and benefits. Parks and his wife of four years own a house near Sand Springs.

“My wife works as a speech pathologist at a school that I built,” he said proudly.

CareerTech students have an edge over those who haven’t taken classes at a technology center, according to Parks.

“We’ll get guys out here who have been flipping burgers at McDonalds and we tell them to grab an 8-foot two-by-four and they look at you and say, ‘What’s a two-by-four?’ You can definitely tell a difference in someone who has spent even one semester at a technology center such as Tulsa Tech,” he said.

Crossland has recently implemented a mentor program for all new hires, pairing long-term employees with CareerTech grads working side by side until the new hires have learned what they need to know to do the job.

“CareerTech is labeled as the place to go if you’re not going to college,” Parks said, “but that’s not right. It’s more of a college preparatory program. Or you could go through CareerTech and straight into a career.”

Despite the competitive salaries, personal satisfaction and room for growth in construction careers, there’s a serious shortage of skilled workers in construction-related jobs. That shortage is even more relevant now, in the wake of the devastation and subsequent rebuilding as a result of the recent hurricanes.

According to Crossland, the industry is having an especially difficult time attracting millennials.  A 2017 survey of young people considering careers showed that only three percent of them were interested in a construction trade.

Eiland said educated parents often talk their teenagers out of pursuing careers in construction.

“”There is physical labor involved,” he said, “and college-educated parents sometimes think the trades are a step backwards. Also, since job sites are a very controlled environment, lots of kids don’t want to deal with that many rules.”

Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed a proclamation declaring October Careers in Construction Month in Oklahoma, to increase public awareness and appreciation of construction craft professionals and the entire construction workforce.

According to information presented by Crossland, more than eight out of 10 construction firms report having a hard time finding enough qualified workers. Six out of 10 report having a hard time finding qualified construction professionals.

“If I’d gone into architecture,” Parks said, “I’d definitely be looking for a change now. And I’d have a lot more college student loans.”

Oklahoma’s CareerTech system has construction trades programs in their CareerTech Skills Centers as well as 46 technology center campuses statewide.

For more information, contact:

Connie Romans, communications and marketing coordinator

Connie.romans@careertech.ok.gov

405.743.5153

 

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