CFCC construction program shows signs that the industry is heating up in Coastal Carolina

Jon Begue, lead instructor for Cape Fear’s Construction Management Technology program sees signs the real estate free-fall, at least in Coastal North Carolina, may finally be turning around.

“Every single graduate we have is employed within the industry,” says Begue. “We’re currently unable to supply the number of interns requested by contracting firms across our region.”

Begue began the program in July of 2009.  He says it’s a common misconception that a construction management job won’t pay.

“An entry level manager coming out of our program can potentially make $38,000 a year. We’re training superintendents and managers who are in charge on job sites. And they’re getting hired.”

Begue quickly ticked off names of four Wilmington area builders who have come to him in recent weeks asking Cape Fear students apprentice with them.

“Just a week ago one of them, Bryan Humphrey Design and Construction picked up an intern from us.  Local roofing company Flores and Foley hired two of our interns in the past year. Parker Construction Group just hired one of our students as a superintendent on a large multi-family project, and that student hasn’t even graduated yet.”

Begue remembers five years ago when the bottom dropped out of local construction at the same time Cape Fear hired him on.

“It was kind of interesting how the decline made our program attractive to members of that displaced industry. We had a lot of general contractors who had no work to sustain their business. They came to get more management training. And younger workers were coming because they were the first to be fired off jobs. We had a large surge in enrollment.”

Begue’s program now has 54 students pursuing associate degrees. But one recent graduate stands out.

“Jim Parker was what we call a non-traditional, older student,” said Begue.

The 29-year-old had worked in the industry as an electrician and contract laborer for many years, but could never break through to the management side.

“Jim came here, got his degree and has really succeeded,” said Begue.

“He has a wife and a child. He committed to the program and epitomizes what we’re trying to do here, to get a passion for learning. In our industry, you have to be a lifelong learner because things are always changing,” Begue said.

Parker now works for Penton Development as a project manager. His inspiration came from his son.

“Once he was born, it made me make the decision that I wanted to have some type of college degree. I didn’t want my son coming to me in 18 years and saying, I’m not going to college because you didn’t. So, I decided to do it for my family, mostly for him,” Parker said.

Parker graduated with a 3.5 GPA and has already started with an annual salary in the low 30s.

“I hope to get up to 50 or 60 thousand in the next three to six years,” Parker stated.

The journey through school was especially hard for Jim who has difficulty with reading and focus. He suffers from attention deficit disorder commonly known as ADD. But it didn’t keep him from graduating with new opportunities for career advancement.