UT to graduate first students of Construction Science program

UT to graduate first students of Construction Science program

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"It's something I think a lot of people aren't doing in the industry right now, and aren't really educated on. I think that's one of the advantages I have now," said Kramer of the focus on environmentalism in the program. "It's something I think a lot of people aren't doing in the industry right now, and aren't really educated on. I think that's one of the advantages I have now," said Kramer of the focus on environmentalism in the program.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It's graduation season and while the job market is slowly improving, many college students realize specializing in a high-demand area of a chosen career can mean the difference between landing a job quickly or ending up in the unemployment line.

This Spring, 3,600 students are graduating from the University of Tennessee. Two of them could have a leg up in one of the toughest industries, thanks to a new degree program.

There's no doubt the construction business is tougher than ever, following the housing market crash and recession. "But, it can only get better," replied UT student Justin Kramer. 

Positive thinking isn't all Kramer is banking on to succeed. Wednesday he'll be the first graduate with a new UT Construction Science degree from a program which puts a specialized focus on the areas of environment, technology, and business.

"You get the hands on experience and you get the business minor built into the program," explained Kramer. He already has two construction jobs lined up and a new title - business owner.

"I've actually started my own business called Construction Innovations," he said. "I'm going to be mainly building residential houses right now."

Classmate Aaron Ross is finishing up the program with the help of the G.I. Bill. He served his country with the U.S. Marine Corps and hopes to marry his real life experience with what he's learned at UT.

"I went from California to Iraq to Afghanistan, then back to Germany and Spain. So I've traveled a lot," said Ross. Getting the right job as a project manager for an engineering firm after graduation may mean more traveling, he said. Ross has multiple offers, some outside the U.S.

Both students say their new knowledge of the growing green technology field helps. "We can be more environmentally friendly and still doing construction," said Ross.

"It's something I think a lot of people aren't doing in the industry right now, and aren't really educated on. I think that's one of the advantages I have now," added Kramer.

Their Biosystems Engineering & Soil Sciences professor, Dr. Eric Drumm, said a working knowledge of emerging 3D technology, and grasp of good financial business practices will be key too. "Construction has become a high-tech industry with small margins. They need to be careful with their dollar, and they need to be good estimators."

They know what they've learned is in demand because leaders in the local construction industry are already investing time and money. "We've been fortunate our industry partners are supporting us," said Drumm. "They've provided funds to help us hire some adjunct teachers, which allows us to get good practice background into our courses."

The business and higher ed partnership seems to be working. Drum said there are more than twenty students enrolled in the new construction degree program currently. All of them have summer work lined up in some construction-related field, even before they graduate.

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