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Beaudette takes over as GCC construction technology program instructor


August 31, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Joshua Scribner, a freshman in the Construction Technology program at Gogebic Community College, checks the level of the row of bricks he lined up in a masonry exercise Wednesday at the building trades department.


Ironwood - After two decades there will be a change of instructors in the construction technology program at Gogebic Community College.

Ray Niemi, a contractor who ran the GCC program, has retired. He has elected to stay on for a month to transition the programs over to Dennis Beaudette, who was approved as the construction technology instructor in the GCC building trades department on Monday.

Beaudette, of Wakefield, will teach the classroom portion and Niemi will supervise the practical construction portion until Beaudette's contractor license is re-certified sometime in September.

"Over the course of the last 20 years we built 18 houses in the area and young individuals here participated in the process of building a home from start to finish," Niemi said. "I've had numerous students who have made careers out of this."

Niemi also ran the high school construction trades program with the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District. Beaudette was approved to lead that program also on Tuesday.

"You train somebody to do something that they can use later in life when they own their own home," Niemi said. "It's very fulfilling to teach this class because you're teaching students stuff that they can use the rest of their life irregardless if they make it a career or not."

Beaudette said his contractors license lapsed following an injury a few years ago. There were some changes on the state and federal level over allowing credentialing or requiring continuing education credits that should be clarified by mid September, and he will take the written test in the meantime, he said.

Beaudette said he has trained entry level workers over the years and believes the GCC program is ideal for teaching the basics but also offering students some exposure to several construction occupations.

"You take a student who doesn't know what they want to do when they come in," he said. "They get a taste of everything and then maybe decide they want to specialize in electrical or plumbing and they make a career out of that and pursue that particular part of construction and that's a good thing."

The classroom instruction uses different terminology than is practiced on the worksite but it's important for the students learn both, he said. As the students learn about specifications and estimates, standards, they will put the learning to use building a large garage that involves masonry and concrete work, framing, tresses, finishing, trimming, siding and soffit facia, he said.

"From day we start talking safety, because construction is inherently a dangerous industry," Beaudette said. "You need to tell them what's good to do, and what's bad to do in terms of how to handle yourself on a job site."

The first two days of class focused on safety, taking measurements and laying out walls. On Wednesday the instructors had the students mixing mortar and putting concrete blocks together. The instructors offered pointers and the students repeated the task over and again.

"I like to get my hands dirty," said Joshua Scribner, a freshman from Mellen, Wisconsin, who decided to seek a construction trades degree after five years in the U.S. Navy. "I do a lot of carpentry and stuff like that but mortar and bricks are new."

Devyn LaCourt, a freshman from Hancock, said he will complete the one-year certificate in the program for sure and may continue for the second year.

"The hardest part about mortar is the mess it makes," LaCourt said.

Kalle Colassaco, a freshman from Hurley, said the bricks and mortar exercise was not difficult to do but was not as easy to do well, she said. She took shop for seven years in middle school and high school and wants to continue at GCC.

"I've always liked building," Colassaco said.

The first semester includes three courses on construction practices followed by classes on reading plans, specifications and codes; mechanical and electrical installations; construction practices, computer-aided design, and introduction to business in the second semester.

For students who choose to continue for the second year program, the courses cover accounting and business and business communications; basic architecture, drafting and design.

The program keeps up with changes in the industry, Beaudette said. It also keeps up with changes in consumer demand, he said.

The student who isn't sure what they want to specialize in can get the basics and be exposed to many different fields, he said. Later when they graduate the the time and experience will all help with an apprenticeship or other opportunity when they decide, he said.

"I get a lot of enjoyment out of finding someone who wants to learn and is willing to learn," Beaudette said. "It's easy to teach them if they are passionate about what they want to do."

There are also nontraditional students who are seeking to be retrained after a layoff, he said. Contractors today, locally and nationwide, are just begging for people, he said

"Anyone of these kids can walk out of this program and get a job," Beaudette said.

A Home Builders Association of the Upper Peninsula announcement in June said single family home construction permits were down 16.7% from the previous year in Michigan. New construction costs are escalating faster than existing home values and homebuyers purchasing existing homes instead invested $7.8 billion in renovations in 2018, a 15.5%, or $1 billion more than 2017 remodeling levels, he said.

The demand for construction laborers is strong in either scenario, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported in June the 2018 median pay for just laborers and helpers was $16.74 per hour or $34,810 annually.

The agency within the Department of Labor said there is a 12% growth forecast for short term laborer and on-the-job training jobs from 2016 to 2026. This is considered faster than average.


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