Students build careers in construction program

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Pima Community College’s Building and Construction Technology program was recognized on the Manufacturing Institute’s M-List this year, along with Pima’s machine tool technology, mechatronics and welding programs.

MI is an associate of the National Association of Manufacturers and is the authority on the attraction, qualification and development of world-class manufacturing talent.

MI said it is committed to delivering leading-edge information and services to the nation’s manufacturers. They labeled the chosen Pima programs “outstanding.”

MI chose only two other institutions in Arizona besides Pima and currently recognizes 193 institutions across the country.

Patrick Lawless, head of Pima’s BCT department, said there is a shortage of trades workers in the employment industry.

“There is a high demand for tradespeople,” Lawless said. “So employers are more proactive in working with colleges to help provide quality tradespeople.”

Completing a program through BCT provides students with both college credits and a NAM-endorsed NCCER certification. The certifications apply to the Core Curriculum, Electrical, HVAC, Carpentry and Plumbing programs.

All of BCT’s courses are self-paced.

“We use a flipped-classroom method,” Lawless said. “The students watch their lessons online in a video or in an interactive format, then they come in, ask any questions for clarification and work on the lesson they learned hands-on. They can get one-on-one time with instructors.”

Lawless said BCT students may come work in the labs any time from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays.

They have their own computer lab with specialists to ask questions to, in addition to two hands-on lab areas with multiple instructors present.

“Not every student has a computer or access to the Internet,” Lawless said. “We make sure to provide that here.”

He says one benefit of the classes being self-paced is that students have a lot of flexibility in time and scheduling.

If students are able to finish a class in the middle of a semester, they may sign up for another BCT class to advance more quickly.

If students need more time than a semester to finish a class, the earned credit may be carried over, too.

“If the student completed a percentage of the class they started, they just have to let us know and we can work with them,” Lawless said.

Wayne Brubaker, a BCT instructor, says he believes the self-pacing helps many students balance school with other responsibilities they have.

“With the flexibility of self-pacing, students aren’t sucked into a schedule they can’t keep up with,” Brubaker said. “Like if their work hours change, or they get sick. We are able to keep students here longer with that flexibility.”

Luke Vaughan, a first-semester HVAC student, agreed.

“It’s great for people like me,” Vaughan said. “I work full time, have a son, a lot going on. The self-pacing is phenomenal; I couldn’t do it without it being this way.”

Jesse Scwell, a first-year HVAC student, likes the self-pacing because it accelerates his way to a certification with his current knowledge, without him having to wait in a regular classroom setting.

“I like it,” Scwell said. “As fast as I learn it, the faster I can get it done. Not sit in a class and learn unnecessary skills.”

Lawless said another advantage to the self-paced scheduling is that it teaches other important job skills.

“I think it teaches independence, and students have to be self-motivated.” Lawless said. “Not self-motivated is not successful. You can equate that to being a good employee; one that can plan, has goals, is independent, able to finish things on their own, be a self-starter and be able to follow instructions.”

The BCT’s main focus is to provide their students a high-quality education.

“All students have to get 80 percent on every test or retake it,” Lawless said. “If the second time they take it they still don’t pass, an instructor will sit down with them and go over it to figure out what they need help understanding. We make sure they have the skill, not just pass the test.”

Miguel Lerma, a first-year electrician student, said he likes the way the program is run.

“They explain things well,” Lerma said. “It’s easier.”

Nick Zimmerman, a second-year HVAC student, agreed.

“I can’t think of a better way to put it together,” Zimmerman said. “It’s extremely flexible and helpful.”

Lawless said the department is currently working with industry partners to develop apprenticeship and internship opportunities and encourage working students to complete their certification or degree.

“Employers know the value of their employees going to school, and we understand the value of students having a career,” Lawless said. “Employers can be assured our students coming to them are well-trained. We are a very experienced team here.”

Miguel Lerma, a first-year electrician student, practices wire feeding to a light
Cutting copper pipings, Luke Vaughan is a first-year HVAC student.


Jesse Scwell, another first-year HVAC student, saws away.
Mark Zimmerman, second-year HVAC student, works in class


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