Students gain invaluable experience in national building competition

A team of University of Wisconsin-Platteville students in the Building Construction Management and Building Construction Safety Management programs recently competed against 21 other universities at the national Associated Builders and Contractors Construction Management Competition, held in Long Beach, California. UW-Platteville team members included Trevor Meyers, Sam LeRoy, Adam Masters, Zac Johnson, Mackenzie Arnold and Peter Schumacher.

Held during the ABC National Convention, the annual competition provides teams an opportunity to experience an actual project that exhibits unique characteristics and issues. This year’s project focused on construction of a new events center and replacement of the Aquatic Center at Edgewood High School in West Covina, California. This included upgrades and improvements to the selected site and area development.

In January, the students were given a request for proposal. They had the opportunity to work on it up until the competition. While at the competition, they were given three addendums to the original proposal that they were required to respond to by a given time.

“The majority of the students already had an amazing internship experience they could apply to the competition,” said Gretchen Bockenhauer, lecturer of building construction management. “The competition gave them that real-life feeling of submitting a proposal with only minutes or seconds to spare.” The project is then judged in the areas of estimating, project management, safety and quality control.

The competition also functions as a national recruiting event. Many companies watch the students compete, present and then follow-up with the students for an interview. Opening and closing night ceremonies offer a networking opportunity for the students to meet potential employers as well as student competitors from across the country.

United States Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta spoke at the event, delivering a positive message to students about the future outlook for the field. “He explained his enthusiasm and excitement for the trades and what they were doing,” said Bockenhauer. “He also cited that 600,000 new jobs in construction were created this year, and that for the first time in many years wages are growing in construction.”

Participating in the ABC Competition is just one of the many ways that UW-Platteville’s Department of Industrial Studies is helping to ensure that its graduating students have a competitive-edge when applying for these jobs. Students graduate equipped with hands-on, practical experience gained through internships, the Commercial Construction Lab, Safety Lab, the soon-to-be-open Road and Infrastructure Construction Lab and more. According to Bockenhauer, most students from UW-Platteville’s Building Construction Management and Building Construction Safety Management programs have multiple job offers months before graduating.

The students’ participation in the competition was made possible with the support of the Wisconsin Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors; Hensel Phelps; Wondra Construction Inc.; Miron Construction; Supreme Structures Inc.; Dr. Wayne Weber, Dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture; and Dr. Frank Steck, chair of the Department of Industrial Studies, along with others in the department. The team is co-advised by Bockenhauer and Sangwook Lee, assistant professor of building construction management.

The student selection process for the 2020 competition – to be held in Nashville, Tennessee – will begin next fall.