Commencement is always a time of celebration and new beginnings. This spring, four WVU Tech graduates will be the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in construction management, the first and only degree of its kind in the state.
Tristen Nesmith of Shady Spring, Ryan Perry of Kanawha Falls, Lucas Berg from Petersburg and Joshua Staines of Strathfield, Sydney, Australia, are graduating in May from the construction management program. Three of them have already accepted positions as project engineers at construction companies, while one is in talks with a construction company in Florida and expects to accept a job offer there soon.
All four graduates started as civil engineering majors. When the construction management program began, they decided to change majors because they wanted a more involved and hands-on experience in their fields.
“When the construction management program came along after my first year here, I knew it was more what I wanted to do. I realized civil engineering was more design, and this was more field-related and hands-on,” explained Nesmith.
“I always liked construction equipment as a little kid, and that interest is what led me to the program. I didn’t know how to get into this field without a civil engineering degree until I was introduced to the construction management program. Then, I realized that was the path I needed to be on,” said Perry.
“I came in as a civil engineering major and saw it was more theoretical, and I’m more of a hands-on person. Construction seemed more up my alley. I realized I wanted to be in the heart of the industry instead of signing off on the papers,” Staines said.
With new infrastructure investments by the federal government and the United States creating trillions of dollars’ worth of structures each year, there are plenty of job possibilities for those entering the industry.
“Finding, employing and retaining top talent in the construction industry is a difficult task, especially with the Roads to Prosperity and federal stimulus programs that are powering new and revitalized infrastructure throughout West Virginia right now,” said John Jarrett, owner of Jarrett Construction and Tech alumnus (’84).
“Tech is filling a need that no other university or college in West Virginia is doing. My firm can recruit new team members from right here in West Virginia. Having a source for this talent within a stone’s throw or two from our office is unquantifiable. We are super excited to have Tech and their construction management program available to us,” said Jarrett.
“There’s a huge opportunity for growth. All of us are starting as project engineers. There’s just a huge ceiling to grow, and construction is one of the biggest industries in the country right now,” adds Nesmith.
“The program is well-rounded,” said Perry. “We touch on a little bit of everything, from the design of projects before they start to their completion.”
Jarrett explained that Tech is also providing their students with the latest in construction industry software, such as Procore. Jarrett Construction uses Procore as its project management platform to help manage jobs.
“Our newest teammate, Ryan Perry, will graduate in May with a Procore certification. It normally would take us several weeks and many labor hours to train someone without Procore experience,” said Jarrett.
Jason Hunter, vice president of operations at Triton Construction, has hired another one of the construction management graduates and has had multiple interns at his company from WVU Tech. He echoes Jarrett’s sentiment.
“Tech students are equipped with industry applicable knowledge and problem-solving aptitude. They all have a strong desire to learn, are willing to work hard and understand construction concepts,” Hunter said.
With jobs waiting for them upon graduation and the anticipation of finishing their degrees, all the students agreed: They’re excited to graduate and be the first graduates of the program.
“I’ve been practicing walking at graduation in my dorm room,” Staines said, laughing.
WVU Tech’s commencement ceremony will be Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m. at the Beckley Raleigh County Convention Center.
For more information about commencement, visit wvutech.edu/commencement.
Questions about commencement can be sent to [email protected]