Texas Border Affairs
HARLINGEN, Texas – There is always a need for skilled construction workers in Texas. And the skills that will enable these workers to succeed are offered in the Building Construction Technology program at Texas State Technical College.
Rick Vargas, TSTC’s Lead Building Construction Technology Instructor at the Harlingen campus, has 13 years of industry expertise from his work with companies such as Green Rubiano & Associates and Peacock General Contractors in Harlingen.
Vargas teaches his students commercial-type construction projects and real-world scenarios in lab sessions.
“What I do is create leaders on the pitch,” he said. “I have a student who serves as a foreman. He or she is responsible for this group. They chat with their team to make sure the workload is complete. The foreman also reports to me on all questions from his team. You must be an excellent communicator.
Fourth-semester student Jaime Salinas is pursuing an associate of applied science degree in building construction technology. He said the wealth of knowledge he gained through the program is amazing.
“I learned the correct procedures that are best suited for managing different projects,” he said. “These examples start with the foundation, all the way to putting up a roof, putting up the walls, and other things. The skills with which these instructors have educated me are amazing.
Fourth-semester student Alfredo Martinez is also pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction technology.
He said each instructor brings different values and techniques to the program.
“I try to use their talents and create my own style,” he said. “For a lesson, I had to provide an estimate for a house. These calculations related to the cost of materials and labor. I enjoyed it because it gives you a real-world perspective.
Instructors teach important skills – technical, soft, and managerial – that shape their students’ outlook.
The technical aspect consists of using practical tools that are used in the field. Soft skills relate to communication, such as managing a crew.
Communication is used extensively in the program management course. Students learn how to review contracts, locate work opportunities, and run a business. They also learn the bidding process. Most importantly, they learn to ensure safety plans are in place.
Also, students are instructed on inflation and are required to contact vendors regarding equipment costs in the estimation course.
“Many of my students are surprised by the high cost of equipment quotes,” Vargas said. “I tell them to compare that to the cost of an item in 2019. It’s a direct effect of inflation.”
Vargas still communicates with several former graduates who have excelled in the construction industry.
“They’re all grateful for the basics we taught them,” he said. “These are the industry skills that will enable today’s students to transition into a successful construction profession.”
According to onetonline.org, construction managers in Texas can earn around $86,000 a year. The number of such jobs in the state is expected to increase by 17% by 2028.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology and a Certificate of Completion in Building Construction – Craftsman at the Harlingen and Waco campuses.
To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.