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SMCC awards certificates to first class of Construction Institute students

Southern Maine Community College has awarded Certificates of Readiness to the first students completing SMCC’s Construction Institute, a new program that provides Mainers a flexible pathway to advance their construction careers.

For this fall’s inaugural Construction Institute, 20 Maine residents took classes that provided training in skill sets that are essential to the construction industry. Students were awarded Certificates of Readiness at a ceremony Wednesday at SMCC’s McKernan Center.

SMCC developed the Construction Institute in collaboration with business partners to serve the needs of industry and of students, said SMCC President Ron Cantor. Following Wednesday’s ceremony, students explored job opportunities at a meet-and-greet expo with employers.

“With full employment, an aging workforce and a boom in construction, Maine builders are having a hard time finding enough qualified workers,” Cantor said. “We are helping boost the Maine economy by providing employers with the skilled workers they need to remain competitive.”

Construction industry employment is now at a nine-year high in the U.S., according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The association says most construction firms plan to add workers this year as demand for all types of construction continues to expand.

The Construction Institute addresses the changing needs of students and the construction industry by offering short-term classes, convenient schedules and stackable courses that allow students to continue their education without having to complete an entire degree program. Students can also apply the credits they’ve earned in the institute classes toward a degree or certificate in Construction Technology should they choose, giving them the option to further their education even more in the future.

Among the students who completed the institute’s five courses was Lazarus Donato of Portland, who plans continue his education and earn a degree in construction at SMCC. He’s been managing group homes for the past decade and wants to work in residential construction.

“I loved it, and I learned a lot of things in these courses,” Donato said. “I feel like this is my entry into construction field.”

Grant funding for the Construction Institute was provided by Maine Quality Centers, which is part of the Maine Community College System and provides workforce development training delivered through SMCC and Maine’s other community colleges. The five courses offered this fall were Building Concepts & Leveling; Print Reading; Tool Safety; Construction Safety; and Framing Methods.

All 20 students who began the program were awarded certificates for their training. Of the 20, four were already employed by construction firms and took the courses to advance their careers.

SMCC plans to offer the Construction Institute again in the fall of 2018.

SMCC also offers a 24-credit one-year certificate in Construction Technology that provides technical and hands-on experience and prepares people for a career in the construction industry. For students seeking a college degree, SMCC offers a two-year associate degree in Construction Technology.

Photo caption: Students from SMCC’s new Construction Institute were awarded Certificates of Readiness at a ceremony Wednesday. Students are shown with SMCC President Ron Cantor (far left), SMCC Construction Technology Chair Dave Eng (fourth from right), and Dan Belyea (second from right), Maine Community College System’s Interim Director of Workforce Training.