Construction trades program ties CMC to community
Students gain career and technical skills while learning from local contractors
By Mike McKibbin
Colorado Mountain College Leadville's construction trades program is building.
The Leadville campus recently placed two students in a summer internship program where they gained hands-on experience learning construction skills from an area contractor. The Lake County School District and several Leadville-area construction companies are partners in the program.
Justin Ernst, co-owner of Downstream Construction, oversaw the two student interns.
"It worked well," Ernst said. "We counted on them being productive when they were on-site and they did a great job. And it was refreshing for those of us who've been doing this for a while to have a fresh look at how we do things."
Earning certificates in construction trades
In the program, students can earn a certificate in construction trades. Initial in-person classroom learning was set for Friday, Jan. 21 through May 2022 with six or seven students, said Ben Cairns, vice-president and dean of CMC Leadville and Salida.
"We hope to get it up to around 16 students over two semesters, split between in-class and on-site internships," he noted.
Classes are being taught by an area contractor and CMC is contributing administrative support time.
An agreement between the Colorado Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education and CMC directs the use of a $16,500 grant from the federal government's Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century — or Perkins — Act to help pay students who work on-site at CMC Leadville with efforts focusing on a remodeling project on the Crown Pointe campus building.
CMC has earmarked $14,788 of the grant funds to buy construction hand tools and another $2,500 is for purchasing basic hand, electric and other tools as needed. CMC will also pay up to $1,000 for travel expenses to an industry conference and repurpose a trailer with an estimated market value of $3,500 for a future mobile classroom.
The trailer will house basic construction equipment, supplies, demonstration and student workbenches, personal protective equipment and other items so students can get hands-on training without straining the resources of local contractor partners. The mobile classroom may eventually be transported to other areas of the CMC district where needs and interests exist.
Cairns said construction trades certification follows similar programs in welding, culinary arts and other fields.
Local contractors benefit, too
The Leadville program is partly modeled after a Salida basic construction technology program that started in 2019, he noted. It also involves local contractors and an internship program for high school students in the Salida School District. Through CMC’s concurrent enrollment program, high school students earn college or vocational credit towards a post-secondary diploma, certificate or degree.
"We've seen that with the pandemic, people are taking more time to decide what they want to do when it comes to higher education," Cairns said. "Without things like certifications, we know their chances of landing a job in whatever they decide to do are much less."
Another program benefit is to help local contractors who find a shortage of workers one of their biggest hurdles.
"It's a good opportunity for students looking for a different job and a chance to learn the skills they need," Ernst said. "It's a great example of how CMC is tied into the community. It's an awesome program."