In addition to watching videotaped segments, students are taken to actual jobsites to observe different methods being used. "The rewarding part is that many of them, after going out there, definitely understood what was going on," says Meyers. "Some of them had great ideas. They asked, 'Why is this guy doing this? Shouldn't that 631 be loaded in 25 seconds?' So they picked up on some pretty good stuff."
Students are also trained to look for necessary information. "Throughout the whole class, we consistently send students to the Caterpillar web site to get information," says Meyers. "They have to find it themselves. We try to make it applicable to when we start a new job. They don't have to carry around a textbook or tables. They know this is one location where they can find some of the information."
Students are also given a complete list of rental equipment from a rental company. The list isn't specific to the job.
"On our list of rental equipment, we supplied a lot more equipment than what they would need," explains Meyers. "They picked the best tool out of there, then determined what it was going to cost to operate per hour. Then, they determined production and the ultimate unit cost for the activity.
"In many cases there is only one piece that was probably the best choice. It wasn't the cheapest choice, but it was the best choice," he notes. The students worked through the task in their own ways. Some caught on right away that certain machines would not work in the specific conditions outlined.
Building better employees
Attendance in the ASU course has been on the increase. There were 60 students in the first semester and 100 the second semester. There would have been more, but that was the capacity of the classroom.
"When they get done with this class, even if they get a C on the exam, they can get a job the next week and they are not going to walk in there with the 'deer in the headlights' look," says Peterson. "They are going to understand what the job is from what they have done."
Hansberger adds that it's the training that gives students an edge, not necessarily the grade they earn. "The top person in the class might not be the right person," he says. "But sometimes there are people in class that impress you."
Peterson agrees, noting, "You can pick five out of 100 and say, 'If those five came to work for us, it would be great.'" Yet, what is really important is keeping those individuals in the industry. "Let's make sure we talk to those five and ensure they are going into horizontal, [construction] even if they are going to a competitor."
Ultimately, the goal is to raise the level of professionalism throughout the industry. "We would rather work with more successful people in the field," says Meyers. "We don't care if they are our customer or who they are. If we are working with them, we want to work with qualified people. Any way we can help to put better quality people in the industry, it is better for us."
Thd class gives students a basic foundation they can build upon throughout their career. "No one ever knows all aspects of construction," says Peterson. "A lot of people think they can operate a piece of equipment for a while and then open a business. But there is more to business than digging holes. You have to know more. You have to be aware of things around you. You have to be aware of safety regulations. You have to be aware of competition. You have to know how to price your equipment. It takes all of these pieces to actually do construction."
Education of future construction management accomplishes several goals. "As we grow bigger we need higher caliber people," says Meyers. "Those people are still hard to find." Participation with a local university can increase the awareness and visibility of the company.
It also helps with the personal development goals of internal employees. For example, Meyers was able to polish presentation skills, while Peterson learned more about the day-to-day operations within C.S.&W. "It is a good way for me to learn more about the nuts and bolts of what we do everyday in the field," says Peterson.
Yet, you need to look at the greater good when choosing to volunteer your services. "It will not accomplish any single goal, but it is like community service," says Peterson. "If you go in with the right attitude because you have a passion to help, a lot of good things will happen."