Western States Construction College (WSCC) is a new institution offering college credits in tandem with apprenticeships in the skilled trades. Students earn salaries while learning and practicing construction or service under the leadership of construction professionals and mentors. During the day, students work at a jobsite working in electric, HVAC, pipefitting or plumbing, and they take classes two nights a week. The college celebrated its launch Monday, November 8.
Several team members from U.S. Engineering’s Rocky Mountain region were involved in creating WSCC. They worked with a coalition of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sheet metal industry partners (MEP Alliance) and a bipartisan group of legislative leaders to pass Colorado House Bill 21-1306, which makes transferring credits earned in apprenticeship programs easier for students who wish to seek degrees in construction.
by Todd VonLintel
Sometimes we are presented with an opportunity that isn’t necessarily our job to do, but you can see the enormous impact it could have on thousands of people. The effort might be unprecedented, and it might take years to accomplish, but you know it is worth the investment. We are on the cusp of realizing one of these incredible achievements, and it has the potential to change the future of the construction workforce.
More on that story later, but let me first discuss why it is so critical that we embrace these legacy-changing opportunities.
At U.S. Engineering, our mission is simple: leave a legacy. A lasting, positive legacy.
As I’ve said for years, the success of our organization depends on our people and whom we surround ourselves with. Most importantly, it’s not about what one person can do – our legacy is about what we as a company leave behind. Consider the men and women who helped transform Colorado’s capital city of Denver from a cow-town into the thriving metropolitan city it is today. Generations have come before us, laid the foundations—literally and figuratively—and taught us. Now it’s our turn to give back.
How do we do that? By making our communities, partners and our own organization better tomorrow than they are today. As the nation and world look to the future, it’s critical that we look back at what people and institutions have left behind that helped us get to where we are today.
Here in the Rocky Mountain region, we took a holistic approach to the conversation around investing in the next generation about five years ago. We don’t believe it’s enough just to train individuals in the skilled trades, get them connected to a job, complete it and move on. We’re in the business of investing in our people so they can do more than simply “get the job done.”
Over the course of the past five years, a group of business and labor management leaders met with the intention to work out the challenges that can sometimes arise when businesses and labor unions work together. Thanks to the work of our partners at the Rocky Mountain Mechanical Contractors Association, we were able to make incredible progress in our relationships where there were centuries-old challenges.
From the conversations between the two groups, we’ve established a working relationship where both groups can openly discuss issues and find solutions. Ultimately, this effort led to a discussion surrounding apprenticeships and accreditation. To our knowledge, Colorado is the first state in the nation to foster this type of collaboration between businesses and labor groups, and we hope to continue to lead the charge and encourage other states to follow suit.
Earlier this year, a coalition of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sheet metal industry partners (MEP Alliance) worked with a bipartisan group of legislative leaders to pass Colorado House Bill 21-1306. The bill, now a law, enables apprentices to more easily transfer credits earned in the MEP Alliance’s apprenticeship programs should they decide to pursue a construction management degree.
Our labor management meetings provided insight into how we can honor the educational processes our apprentices experience while also providing future opportunities for more traditional degrees. Our goal is to provide all students with the opportunity to maximize their education opportunity and grow professionally.
This was an important first step toward the ultimate creation of a four-year college program for the skilled trades. The Rocky Mountain Division of U.S. Engineering joined with our United Association (UA) and Sheet Metal labor partners and other members of the Rocky Mountain MCA on this effort. Collectively, we are excited to continue to improve education and career training opportunities for Colorado and Wyoming apprentices by accrediting apprenticeship programs through the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE).