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Some students in the University of North Florida's contruction management program study abroad in places like Brazil where they can learn construction management skills from locations around the world.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 14, 201712:00 PM EST

UNF program helping build up workforce

by: Wesley LeBlanc

By Wesley LeBlanc, Contributing Writer

For five years, the University of North Florida’s construction management program has maintained a 100 percent placement rate, meaning every single student in the program graduates with a job in the field.

“The industry is booming and we can’t put enough students out at this point but really, that’s nothing to complain about at all,” said the program’s adviser, James Sorce.

How do they do it?

Career fairs, which come once a semester, include more than 100 companies looking to employ students after they graduate and sometimes, even while they’re still in school.

These career fairs are made up of local companies such as MasterCraft Builders and W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor as well as national companies such as Disney Imagineering.

Chris Shee, a cofounder of MasterCraft Builders in Fruit Cove, knows first-hand the benefits of hiring someone from the program.

“It’s a huge benefit to any construction company, national or local, to hire from this program,” said Shee. “These students learn the real-world picture of how to start with just dirt and build on it, turning nothing into something for the community.”

He also serves on the UNF Construction Management advisory board, specifically working on the Student Competition Committee. As part of the group, Shee oversees UNF and its inclusion in a competition hosted by the National Association of Home Builders.

At this contest, which occurs every January and rotates location between Las Vegas and Orlando, competing teams are given a piece of property that has been purchased and in turn, must create and present a business plan for this land.

This business plan includes budget, permits and materials and is made completely by the students on each team.

In this year’s competition, UNF’s team placed sixth out of 35 teams.

While achieving a good place in the competition is important, what’s more important is the opportunity the competition yields to students.

“What students gain from this is not only great exposure to local and national companies that are looking to hire them, but a very in-depth education on the real-world environment of this job field,” said Shee.

Beyond competitions like this, students in the Construction Management program get hands-on experience less by being in the field and more of what they do in the lab. They also work with organizations like Habitat for Humanity to complete community service projects.

“Our students get their hands-on work in the form of labs, community service projects, study abroad programs and we even sometimes have industry leaders and professionals come in and speak to the students,” said Sorce.

UNF’s Construction Management program is just like any other program offered at UNF: it’s four years, has an outlined curriculum and includes some form of interning.

The program is unique in its own way though.

The University of North Florida’s Construction Management program is the only construction management program in the world that is accredited by two accreditation councils. Those two accreditations come in the form of the American Council for Construction Education and the Applied Science Accreditation Commission.

These accreditations guarantee that students who graduate from the UNF Construction Management program are not only prepared for the field, but will likely find success in it as well.

Shee hired a student from UNF’s Construction Management program who now works for him at MasterCraft Builders.

“Scott Sullivan was in the program a few years ago and is really outstanding at what he does,” said Shee. “He was a part of the team that competed one year and they got second place.”

The UNF Construction Management program also takes pride in their rising percentage of women involved.

“We’ve gone from under 10 percent to now 15 percent just in the past few years,” said Sorce.

Women tend to get hired quicker with higher salaries and are more sought after in the field, when compared to men, according to Sorce.

Mag Malek, chair of the program, believes misconceptions stop women from entering the field.

“The biggest change will be in the way women think of construction management,” said Malek. “Construction management involves more than construction labor.”

She said construction management involves scheduling, budget, design and much more.

Some, though, know from an early age that construction management is what they want to do, like UNF student Kayla Burtner.

“My family took a trip to Chicago, and when we climbed the Sears Tower, I decided I wanted to build a skyscraper someday,” said Burtner.

When the time came, she knew exactly where she needed to be: in the UNF Construction Management program.

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