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Pellissippi State–ETSU partnership benefits students, construction industry

Some images die hard. For example, the stereotype of construction workers in hardhats and jeans, working physically demanding jobs, exposed to unpleasant weather and deafening noise, lingers.

While that image is still a reality in the industry, many areas also have gone high-tech, as companies try to find ways to build faster, better and cheaper.  

creative structures

Not surprisingly, computers have been key in the transition. For instance, contractors are finding that working from plans created as 3D models on computers can help them build complicated structures faster, more safely and with fewer errors.

Students enrolled the collaborative degree program in construction engineering technology between Pellissippi State and East Tennessee State University use computers for such practical applications as land design, time-scaled logic diagrams and spreadsheets.

Students who successfully complete the program are virtually guaranteed a job, says George Cox, professor and program coordinator of Civil Engineering Technology.

The partnership allows students to earn a two-year associate’s degree from Pellissippi State, then continue on for a four-year bachelor’s from ETSU—all without leaving the Pellissippi Campus.

“We have a 100 percent placement rate,” said Cox. “We can’t provide students fast enough. In fact, I have requests for graduates that I can’t fill.”

Construction is the second-largest industry in the nation. An anticipated one million jobs will be added by 2012 nationwide. Locally, Knox and nearby counties are experiencing strong growth in commercial and industrial projects, despite the recent mortgage and real estate crises. 

“Because of government and commercial construction,” said Randy Merritt, “Knoxville and the surrounding communities have been insulated from economic pressures tied to the mortgage crisis.” Merritt is vice president of operations for Creative Structures, Inc.

A graduate of the Pellissippi State–ETSU partnership, Merritt says he was well-prepared for his career.

“The construction industry is Web-based now,” he said. “And technical skills are a plus, because the speed of business today requires shorter response times.”

The partnership was established in response to demands by area contractors and developers for good people with formal training in construction technology.

Typical career choices: developer or contractor, project manager, field supervisor, cost estimator or even entrepreneur.

Chris Rutherford completed the program in 2007. He is a construction superintendent for Schaad Companies, a family-owned construction and real estate business. 

“I was already employed at Schaad while working on my degree,” said Rutherford.

“The program allowed me to keep my job and take the classes I needed. The construction industry is changing, but I feel prepared.”