Building experts from Morton Buildings of Illinois are working directly with NIACC students to increase their education and training on design and building.
Since Monday April 11, Morton Buildings Director of Operations, Kevin Potter, has been on the NIACC campus to work directly with students. “This is a huge commitment on their part,” said Gregg Helmich, NIACC Building Trades Instructor. “We are very thankful for this unique opportunity.”
For two weeks, Morton officials are on the NIACC campus teaching students in the Building Trades division about post-frame construction. “That’s not something we teach, so this is all new training for our students,” Helmich said. “We usually do residential and light commercial construction.”
Potter and six fellow construction supervisors from Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois are working with NIACC students, using a specific two-week curriculum. “We work with other colleges in many ways, but this is the first time Morton has organized a hands-on project like what we are doing at NIACC,” Potter said.
“It is a good effort on our part but it’s an important one,” Potter said. “We are always looking for our future workforce.”
During the two-week period, students will work in groups of four to design and build a total of four 8’x12’ Morton Building that can also function as a storage building when completed. “Students are learning the post-frame construction process from safety, to design, to the contract, to the actual build. This is definitely hands-on work,” Helmich said.
Once completed, Morton will donate one of the four structures to NIACC. The others will be sold.
Helmich said he has already seen a difference in his students, even after just a few days with Morton officials. “I can sit here and talk about safety on the job and that’s great, but it has a deeper meaning coming from someone who is working in the professional world,” he said. “I can really see the excitement from our students. The wheels are turning.”
Jake Gall of Mason City agrees.
“To me, this is a big deal,’ said Gall, 43, who plans to graduate in May with a Building Trades diploma. “They’re sharing years and years of professional experience with us. Plus, they’re sharing some trade secrets with us. It’s very interesting.”
Gall said Morton Buildings is a company that is known for their safety records. They have even stressed the importance of doing group warm-ups and stretches before working on a construction site to help reduce workplace injuries. “Some of the younger students might not appreciate that yet,’ said Gall. “But Morton is all about safety.”
Marcia Ingham, a Building Trades major, wants to work in this field after she graduates from NIACC May 6. She said Morton Buildings has been a benefit to the classroom education by bringing a single concept of pole building and turning it into an opportunity to expand on student learning. Students have also learned how to read blue prints and the importance of “soft skills” that future employers will rely upon, such as being a reliable, dedicated employee.
“I’m enjoying this time with the managers of Morton Buildings,” Ingham said. “They are patient with us as students, teaching us their expertise in the pole building industry, plus they are giving us a project to work on while they are here. In the classroom we are also learning safety, job set-up and the importance of team work. It’s not a new process to some, but it is different because of the steps they use to complete a building.”
Ingham has enjoyed the hands-on experience she is getting. “It will only benefit me and make me more marketable in a tough economy.”
NIACC Building Trades works closely with the Contractor’s Advisory Association, who is pivotal in shaping the program and keeping it current with the industry’s needs.
The association has members from a variety of building trades professionals who provide essential feedback to NIACC instructors on what business and industry needs are. Morton joined that association last fall and will actively provide internship opportunities for NIACC Building Trades Students.