Construction Trades School to Open at Howard College
SAN ANGELO, TX—During Wednesday's monthly San Angelo Home Builder’s Association (HBA) luncheon, it was announced that after 18 months of hard work, San Angelo’s campus of Howard College will be opening a construction trades school as early as January 2018.
Mike Biggerstaff, with Biggerstaff Homes Inc. and former President of San Angelo’s HBA, has headed the Howard College Trade School Initiative for over a year now. Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, Biggerstaff addressed the attending members of the HBA luncheon where he proudly stated that the city council, on Tuesday, unanimously approved the first reading of an amendment allowing the community college to meet its expansion objectives with the new construction of metal buildings on the Howard College San Angelo campus.
The construction trades will be taught in metal buildings procured at a deep discount from San Angelo-based Mueller, Inc. But to place those buildings near the front of the Howard College campus in northeast San Angelo, the campus master plan had to be modified. The original master plan dictated that non-brick-and-mortar structures had to be placed behind the main campus building, the West Texas Training Center. Placing the buildings behind the main buildings was going to require up to $350,000 in costs to build retention ponds for storm water runoff. That added cost would have axed the trades school idea, said Biggerstaff.
Tuesday, the San Angelo City Council unanimously approved the master plan modification to allow the placement of the trades school buildings near the front of campus.
These new metal buildings will be classroom space and lab space needed for the new trade school program, explained Jamie Rainey, Workforce and Community Development Officer at Howard College San Angelo.
As of right now, Biggerstaff, members of the HBA and other donors have raised over $350,000 towards the project. That is over 95 percent of the funds budgeted to build it.
At Tuesday’s city council, Mayor Brenda Gunter was excited to have a new opportunity for the youth of San Angelo. Stephen McLaughlin, in an informative speech addressed to the council, cited important factors as to why the new trade school is needed in San Angelo.
Over the past few decades, McLaughlin stated, the focus for high school graduates has turned to four-year colleges instead of other educational options like vocational training. Yet, many high school graduates have native talent and skill to become technicians or craftsmen. In an effort to change this focus, and to broaden the educational horizon, the HBA and Howard College are creating a trades school so more men and women can learn to become framers, electricians, HVAC technicians, or plumbers.
In an eye-opening statistic, as of 2015, there were approximately 600,000 job openings in United States for electricians alone. Locally, by 2022, the area will see a critical need for a 25 percent increase in skilled technicians, particularly in the building trades. Currently, the average age of construction workers in San Angelo is 57 years old. “Our kids and our young adults here in San Angelo and in communities all around us need to be told there is another means to economic success,” McLaughlin said. “And having [that opportunity] be here in San Angelo and having it be us that offers this trade school means that we can keep our youth on track here and we can draw young people from all over west Texas.”
President of Howard College Dr. Cheryl Sparks was also in attendance during the luncheon. Howard College, Sparks said, serves 29 school districts where each school is involved in the academic side, the Career Technical Education side, and workforce training. As a community college where many students enroll wondering what their place is in the world, Sparks is confident that this new school will allow her and Howard College to “make dreams real.”
In a small ceremony after the announcement of city council’s approval of the project, the HBA's Howard College Trade School Initiative committee presented a $10,000 cash donation to Howard College representatives. Then, in a surprise announcement by a representative of the Howard College San Angelo Foundation, the foundation said it will be matching the Howard College Trade School Initiative’s donation. This total donation of $20,000 has put the funding for the construction and implementation of the master plan to well over 90 percent.
The city council, in its consent agenda, is expected to grant final approval in two weeks to allow Howard College to locate the buildings near the front of the campus grounds, on the southeast corner. As soon as the project is approved, Biggerstaff says the project will begin moving forward.
The preliminary look at the school’s syllabus reveals a one - and an 2optional two-year - certification program that leverages existing dual credit coursework offered at the high school level.
The one-year program incorporates general carpentry, including framing and finish work, tile setting, masonry, painting and drywall. Students will also be required to take a business acumen and etiquette course.
An optional second year will teach students the trade of becoming a basic electrician, plumber, and HVAC systems technician.
Currently, Howard offers dual credit in welding, HVAC, and a basic electrician course. Those credits earned in high school can apply to the new construction trades school certifications.
Biggerstaff stressed the syllabus is still in development and may change somewhat before the school begins accepting applicants in 2018.
Through the HBA of San Angelo and the Texas Association of Builders’ Foundation, scholarships are offered for students enrolled in the program. Last year, HBA San Angelo raised over $300,000 for the Texas Builders' Foundation scholarships for students earning degrees in construction management and certifications at schools across the state.
Biggerstaff is grateful to everyone involved in the trade school initiative and thanks them for their guidance, their support, their confidence, and their patience.
The following companies and people provided cash, in-kind labor and/or materials:
- Sunbelt Construction
- Biggerstaff Homes
- Crawford Construction
- Fentress Engineering
- Ford Contracting
- Mayor Brenda Gunter
- Mueller Inc.
- Angelo Building Specialties
- Bond Custom Homes
- Decker Custom Homes
- Angelo Glass and Mirror
- Rew Materials
- Kelly Moore Paint Co.
- Kiser Carpet
- Reece-Albert, Inc.
- Ortiz Electric
- Knock-Out Plumbing
- McCoy's Building Supply
- Unlimited Air
- Ferguson Enterprises
- McLaughlin Advertising
- Texas Builders Foundation
- Texas Association of Builders
- Howard College Foundation
- Biggerstaff Cabinet Group
- 3D Steel Building Systems
- Ingram ReadyMix
- HBA San Angelo