Construction jobs sparse post-grad

(Photo by Nha Ha)

Mustang Daily Staff Report

Typical construction management students should expect four to five job offers at graduation this spring, construction management head Allan Hauck said. The economy this year is not like the days before the recession of 2008 hit, Hauck said.

“Typical graduating seniors were looking at five to 15 job offers,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened in four or five years.”

The placement rate for construction management students was at 100 percent until five or six years ago, construction management associate professor Philip Barlow said. Students got the jobs they wanted until the recession hit and numbers went down. Placement has recently gone back up, getting close to 100 percent again, he said.

Approximately 75 to 85 percent of graduates got the jobs they wanted before the recession, he said.

“Students got signing bonuses, they got trucks, company cars, the whole bit,” Barlow said. “It was quite a good time for us through the ’90s and early 2000s, and then we hit this recession.”

In 2008, the construction market collapsed, Hauck said. Depression-level unemployment rates held more than two-and-a-half years. Unemployment level in construction averaged 20 to 24 percent.

Unemployment affected student placement for approximately three years. Construction management was placing about 50 to 60 percent of its graduates, Hauck said.

Construction management went from a $1.2 trillion industry to $100 billion industry, with the residential industry being hit most severely, Hauck said.

“Residential markets saw loses in 60 percent to 70 percent of its annual volume,” he said.

Residential construction is close to being out of the market completely, Hauck said. The field is no longer hiring in residential construction anymore. Construction is either civil or commercial.

“As I like to put it, in 2008, the rest of the country was in a recession, but construction was in a depression,” Hauck said.

Construction management is a large part of the economy, Barlow said. The growth and expansion of the economy depends on its success. With needs for malls, office buildings and transportation, construction management growth patterns will continue to be successful.

Even though placement growth is close to 100 percent, some students will have difficulties in being placed within the first six months after graduation, construction management lecturer Elbert Speidel said.

“The recruitment program isn’t as vigorous as it used to be,” Speidel said. “We’re trying to change that now. We want students to know we have the best department and it takes little effort to get that information out.”

Hauck spends a lot of his time networking with construction management companies and alumni to get them to come to Cal Poly and offer opportunities for students, Hauck said.

“We try to keep the number of companies that are hiring to come here,” Hauck said. “I spend a lot of time on the road networking myself. When the market is bad, I’m out there trying to get more companies to talk to our students. It’s a matter of us trying to stay involved with the economy.”

The market has changed, Hauck said.

“From a student perspective, we went from the hottest job hiring markets five or six, with the highest salary offers and multiple job offers per graduate,” he said. “Where we are right now is back to about 100 percent placement.”

The only worry in construction management is if another recession hits, Barlow said.

“It’s a continued upswing unless we get back into another recession,” Barlow said. “Our industry needs our graduates.”

Sasha Alexander contributed to this article.